Legendary Boxer Muhammad Ali who was renowned for his fighting prowess and his wit and principles, died Friday night at age 74.
The boxing legend also known as “The Greatest of All Time” died at a hospital in Arizona, due to respiratory issues he was hospitalized for treatment. Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74 after a battle of 32-year with Parkinson’s disease,” The funeral would be in Ali’s hometown in Louisville, Kentucky.
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Ali was one of the most charismatic people of his generation. Ali piled up victories, critics and fans through his athletic skills and defiance of the government.
He was also the first boxer to achieve the world heavyweight title three times; he took his retirement with a record of 56-5 (includes 37 knockouts) in 1981. He was named Sportsman of the Century, Sports Personality of the Century by the BBC, in 1999. There was once, Ali was referred as “best-known person on the planet.”
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However, he spent much of his career shadowed by controversy. In his career as his fame grew, he joined Islam’s black separatist group Nation and changed his name as we know today from Cassius Clay. During Vietnam War, he was forced to sit out several years of his career for denying joining the U.S. Army.
Cassius Clay born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, was an unlikely candidate for global stardom. He learned fighting at of age 12, after an incident when his bicycle got stolen he told the local police officer that want to beat the thief. Joe Martin was the officer who coached boxing and advised the young boy ‘how to fight’ and took him under his wing.
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Ali was a natural fighter with his stiff jab and agility and has won above 100 amateur bouts by most accounts and had captured several Golden Gloves championships. Winning Gold at the 1960 Olympics in Rome was his crowning achievement as an amateur, when he defeated Poland’s Zbigniew Pietrzykowski in the final match of light heavyweight.
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He soon turned professional, backed by businessmen known as the Louisville Sponsoring Group. In 1964, he fought for the world title against heavyweight champ Sonny Liston, and dominated the headlines.
“It’s not bragging if you can back it up,” Ali Quoted.
Ali got his nickname in a Brash with Liston, when he was 22-year-old, Ali was polar opposite of Liston. He declared himself “the greatest,” which became his nickname.
Ali captured the world heavyweight title, during the bout in Miami on Feb. 25, 1964, when Liston failed to answer for the 7th round. It was the last time Ali fought as Cassius Clay. Thereafter, he joined Nation of Islam and changed his name shortly after the fight.
“On May 25, 1965, in a rematch, Ali knocked out Liston in the first round.”
In 1966, during Vietnam War, Ali refused the military as per his religious beliefs. Ali stood his ground risking his winnings and prison time, while critics called him a draft dodger.
According to the BBC, Ali said, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” and he famously declared, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,”.
In court, the U.S. Department of Justice battled him in 1967; Ali was convicted of refusing military service. His WBA heavyweight title got suspended and he got suspended by the World Boxing; other organizations also denied Ali a license to fight.
After three and a half years, in 1970, when the City of Atlanta Athletic Commission gave him a license, Ali started fighting again. Soon after this, the state of New York followed suit in front of a federal judge ruled Ali’s license application need not be denied due to his conviction. In 1971, the Supreme Court of the US overturned Ali’s conviction.
Ali quickly adjusted despite losing years of his prime. On March 8, 1971, he laced up his gloves for the “Fight of the Century” against Joe Frazier who was a reigning champion. Ali lost his fight in a 15-round decision, but had avenged that defeat with two victories in 1974 and ’75 over Frazier, the match is known as the “Thrilla in Manila.”
It was a 1974 championship in Kinshasa, Zaire, against champ George Foreman who was at younger age that solidified Ali’s reputation as a shrewd tactician. Then, he adopted what he called to be a rope-a-dope. In the eighth round, Ali won by knockout the so-called “Rumble In The Jungle”.
Ali held the title till 1978 after being upset by unheralded Leon Spinks. He regained the heavyweight title in a rematch for a third and final time against Spinks that same year. In 1980, he relinquished his title to Larry Holmes in a title fight. In 1981, he lost to Trevor Berbick by decision and promptly retired.
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In 1984, when Ali was at the age of 42, he was diagnosed with the Parkinson’s syndrome. Some believe Ali’s condition was brought by the blows his body had absorbed over the years of fighting.
Despite his health issues, Ali remained an active contributor through his post-boxing days, he supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, a museum on his name in Louisville and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Arizona.
Many fans wanted to construct a museum to acknowledge Ali’s achievements. However, Ali wanted more than a building to house his memorabilia. He wanted a place that inspires people to be the best in their respective fields and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.
In 1996, Ali made a surprise appearance at the Centennial Olympic Games which was held in Atlanta, during the Opening Ceremonies, Ali lightened the Olympic Cauldron. That touching moment is one of the greatest in Olympics history and also one of the few Ali’s live televised memories for young generation to have seen him fight. After Sixteen years, at the London Games, Ali made another surprise appearance to present Olympic flag.
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Ali has also worked on many humanitarian missions while unite with world leaders as a United Nations Messenger of Peace and in 2005, Ali has also received Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush.
In 2014, when Ali was in dire health, he launched an Instagram account where he posted his vintage photos and recent selfies. In December 2014, he visited in Reno, Nevada, for his grandson’s high school football game.
Ali is survived by Lonnie, his fourth wife. He had nine kids: Laila Ali, who is a professional fighter, Maryum Ali, Rasheda Ali, Jamillah Ali, Khaliah Ali, Miya Ali, Hana Ali, Asaad Amin and Muhammad Ali Jr.