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Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dies at 74

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The former heavyweight champion was widely regarded as the greatest boxer of all time
The former heavyweight champion was widely regarded as the greatest boxer of all time
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali – one of the world’s greatest sporting figures – has died at the age of 74.
The former world heavyweight champion died late on Friday at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix, Arizona, having been admitted on Thursday.
He had been suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
Ali’s funeral will take place in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, said his family.
Obituary: Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali in his own words
Muhammad Ali pictured during his visit to Ireland in 2009
Muhammad Ali pictured during his visit to Ireland in 2009
Latest tributes
Nick Bryant: How Ali changed his sport and country
Foreman: “One of the greatest human beings”
Tributes for the heavyweight great have been pouring in from across the world.
“Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it,” said US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
_89883728_alidatapic624Former President Bill Clinton – husband of Democratic frontrunner Hillary – said the boxer had been “courageous in the ring, inspiring to the young, compassionate to those in need, and strong and good-humoured in bearing the burden of his own health challenges”.
Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that Ali was “truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all!”
Muhammad Ali datapic
George Foreman, who lost his world title to Ali in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in Kinshasa in 1974, called him one of the greatest human beings he had ever met.
American civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson said Ali had been willing to sacrifice the crown and money for his principles when he refused to serve in the Vietnam war.
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Media captionThe BBC’s Joe Wilson looks back at the life and career of Muhammad Ali
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ali shot to fame by winning light-heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Nicknamed “The Greatest”, the American beat Sonny Liston in 1964 to win his first world title and became the first boxer to capture a world heavyweight title on three separate occasions.
He eventually retired in 1981, having won 56 of his 61 fights.
Listen to The Ali Story on BBC Radio 5 Live from 12:30 BST
How great was he?
Muhammad Ali timeline
Online tributes to Ali
Crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC, Ali was noted for his pre- and post-fight talk and bold fight predictions just as much as his boxing skills inside the ring.
But he was also a civil rights campaigner and poet who transcended the bounds of sport, race and nationality.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, he once said: “As a man who never sold out his people. But if that’s too much, then just a good boxer.
“I won’t even mind if you don’t mention how pretty I was.”
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Media captionArchive: Muhammad Ali
Ali turned professional immediately after the Rome Olympics and rose through the heavyweight ranks, delighting crowds with his showboating, shuffling feet and lightning reflexes.
British champion Henry Cooper came close to stopping Clay, as he was still known, when they met in a non-title bout in London in 1963.
Cooper floored the American with a left hook, but Clay picked himself up off the canvas and won the fight in the next round when a severe cut around Cooper’s left eye forced the Englishman to retire.
Ali’s boxing career
Muhammad Ali, arms raised in victory, walks to his corner as referee Zack Clayton counts out George Foreman after Ali knocked him down in the eighth round of their Rumble in the JungleImage copyrightAP
Image caption
Ali (R) knocked down George Foreman in the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle”
Won Olympic light-heavyweight gold in 1960
Turned professional that year and was world heavyweight champion from 1964 to 1967, 1974 to 1978 and 1978 to 1979
Had 61 professional bouts, winning 56 (37 knockouts, 19 decisions), and losing five (4 decisions, 1 retirement)
In February the following year, Clay stunned the boxing world by winning his first world heavyweight title at the age of 22.
He predicted he would beat Liston, who had never lost, but few believed he could do it.
Yet, after six stunning rounds, Liston quit on his stool, unable to cope with his brash, young opponent.
At the time of his first fight with Liston, Clay was already involved with the Nation of Islam, a religious movement whose stated goals were to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African Americans in the United States.
But in contrast to the inclusive approach favoured by civil rights leaders like Dr Martin Luther King, the Nation of Islam called for separate black development and was treated by suspicion by the American public.
Ali eventually converted to Islam, ditching what he perceived was his “slave name” and becoming Cassius X and then Muhammad Ali.
Tributes to Ali
U.S. boxing great Muhammad Ali poses during the Crystal Award ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, in this January 28, 2006 file photo.Image copyrightREUTERS
“It’s a sad day for life, man. I loved Muhammad Ali, he was my friend. Ali will never die. Like Martin Luther King his spirit will live on, he stood for the world.” – Don King, who promoted many of Ali’s fights, including the Rumble in the Jungle
“Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest human beings I have ever met. No doubt he was one of the best people to have lived in this day and age.” – George Foreman, Ali’s friend and rival in the Rumble in the Jungle
“There will never be another Muhammad Ali. The black community all around the world, black people all around the world, needed him. He was the voice for us. He’s the voice for me to be where I’m at today.” – Floyd Mayweather, world champion boxer across five divisions
How world remembers Ali
In 1967, Ali took the momentous decision of opposing the US war in Vietnam, a move that was widely criticised by his fellow Americans.
He refused to be drafted into the US military and was subsequently stripped of his world title and boxing licence. He would not fight again for nearly four years.
After his conviction for refusing the draft was overturned in 1971, Ali returned to the ring and fought in three of the most iconic contests in boxing history, helping restore his reputation with the public.
He was handed his first professional defeat by Joe Frazier in the “Fight of the Century” in New York on 8 March 1971, only to regain his title with an eighth-round knockout of George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) on 30 October 1974.
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Media captionAli speaks to the BBC before the Rumble in the Jungle
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali blows a kiss after receiving Sports Illustrateds 20th Century Sportsman of the Century Award in 1999Image copyrightAP
Image caption
Muhammad Ali was crowned Sportsman of the Century in 1999
Ali fought Frazier for a third and final time in the Philippines on 1 October 1975, coming out on top in the “Thrilla in Manila” when Frazier failed to emerge for the 15th and final round.
Six defences of his title followed before Ali lost on points to Leon Spinks in February 1978, although he regained the world title by the end of the year, avenging his defeat at the hands of the 1976 Olympic light-heavyweight champion.
Ali’s career ended with one-sided defeats by Larry Holmes in 1980 and Trevor Berbick in 1981, many thinking he should have retired long before.
He fought a total of 61 times as a professional, losing five times and winning 37 bouts by knockout.
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Media captionMuhammad Ali lights Atlanta flame
Soon after retiring, rumours began to circulate about the state of Ali’s health. His speech had become slurred, he shuffled and he was often drowsy.
Parkinson’s Syndrome was eventually diagnosed but Ali continued to make public appearances, receiving warm welcomes wherever he travelled.
He lit the Olympic cauldron at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and carried the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Games in London.
How Ali wanted people to remember him
“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous and who treated everyone right.
“As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him…who stood up for his beliefs…who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.
“And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”
What are your memories of Muhammad Ali? Did you ever meet him? Share your stories and pictures. Email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk
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2 Comments

  1. SIMILARITIES BETWEEN FIGHTERS AND WINNERS (CHAMPIONS).
    YES! WE ETHIOPIANS LOVE FIGHTERS AND WINNERS.
    Ali the hero remind me of the Woyane hero fighters who successfully defeated the Africa’s biggest mechanized armies in Africas history, now advancing changing Ethiopias socioeconomics into the new better era.

  2. He gave us exciting moments in the 1960’s for good parts of the 1970’s. He was a true skilled professional boxer and very articulated communicator. The last time I watched heavyweight boxing with excitement was the bout between Ali and Larry Holmes. Then he gave us a prodigy by the name Sugar Ray Leonard in the 1980’s in the lower weight class divisions. After that every bout seemed gimmick to me.
    May He Rest In Peace!!!!

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