Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali, widely considered as the greatest boxer ever is dead at 74 after a three decade long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
He died in the early hours of Saturday (Indian time) at a Phoenix hospital. His funeral service will be held in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” Bob Gunnell, a family spokesman, told NBC News.
He was born on 17th January, 1942 in Louisville to working class parents. He started boxing at the age of 12 and won his first Olympic Gold medal in the light heavyweight category in Rome in 1960. It was after that he turned professional. He had a habit of talking about his greatness which earned him the nickname “the Louisville Lip”, but unlike most big mouths he had the ability to back it up with his extraordinary fighting skills.
He always raised his voice against racism. He is said to have thrown his Olympic medal into a river after being denied of services at a soda counter owing to racial discrimination.
He converted from Cassius Clay to Mohammad Ali i.e. a Muslim in 1963 being inspired by Malcolm X, a civil rights activist.
An tear later he won his 1st heavyweight championship against Sonny Liston. Before the fight Ali used the line “float like a butterfly, song like a bee”, which will always come to minds of people when one will talk about the beauty of the sport. After beating Liston by a sixth round knockout, Ali proclaimed in the ring, “I’m the greatest! I am the greatest! I’m the king of the world!” Ali defended his title six times, also against Liston in a rematch.
In 1967, he was drafted to serve the US Army in the Vietnam war. Ali famously refused to serve saying, “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big powerful America, and shoot them for what? They never called me nigger. They never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me.”
When a white student challenged his denial to serve the army, Ali told him, “My enemy is the white people, not Vietcongs or Chinese or Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. You won’t even stand up for me in America for my religious beliefs and you want me to go somewhere and fight but you won’t even stand up for me here at home.”
He was issued a boxing license by the state of Georgia after the legal proceedings ended.
He fought Joe Frazier at a sold out Madison Square Garden on 8th March, 1971, in a fight dubbed as “the fight of the century” Ali lost via unanimous decision. It was the first time he lost a professional fight. Ali defeated Frazier when the two fought again in 1974, after Frazier had lost the title, which Ali later won in the same year against George Foreman.
Ali’s rivalry with Joe Frazier is recognized as one of the greatest rivalries in sports. In their 3rd fight in 1975, Ali defeated Frazier in a technical knockout in the 15th round. This fight is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxing matches of all time.
Ali took retirement aged 37 in 1979 but returned in 1980 for a title match vs Larry Holmes which he lost. He fought his last match the following year against Trevor Berbick where he was again defeated. An year later Ali was diagnosed with the Parkinson’s disease. He health continued to decline but Ali participated more and more in humanitarian activities. He was married three times and has nine children.
Ali’s health deteriorated very much of late, nearly surviving death in 2013. The ‘Louisville Lip’, Ali could barely speak in his later years, though he didn’t part ways with controversy, criticizing Donald Trump in a statement released in December.
The Sportscrunch team pays sincere homage to the boxing legend who will live forever in the hearts of people.