The world lost another legend today.
Muhammad Ali, heavyweight champ, political activist and cultural icon, has passed away at the age of 74 after decades of battling Parkinson’s disease. Sadly, doctors say the Parkinson’s likely was caused by the thousands of punches Ali took during a career in which he traveled the world for big fights.
The news comes after Ali was hospitalized with respiratory problems on Thursday, June 2. On Friday, he was reported to be on life support in dire condition, and his children were called to his bedside. Just after midnight on Friday night, several news outlets confirmed the news that he had passed.
“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, Ali’s family spokesman, told NBC News.
Ali has been hospitalized several times in recent years, most recently in early 2015 when he was treated for a severe urinary tract infection initially diagnosed as pneumonia. His last public appearance was in October of 2015.
The People’s Champ will be remembered as much for his prowess inside the ring as his gift of language. He gave us dozens of memorable quotes, most famous among them “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” which has become a mantra of life for millions.
Ali, who was born Cassius Clay, arrived on the national scene in 1964 with a shocking defeat of then champion Sonny Liston, making 22-year-old Clay the youngest boxer to ever take a title from a champion. Soon after, he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. He was found guilty of draft evasion and stripped of his title.
After a three-year hiatus, he returned to boxing and solidified his reputation as the best the sport had ever seen. Ali won a title fight against George Foreman in 1974 by knockout, claiming the world heavyweight title for the second time. A year later, he defeated Joe Frazier once again in the famous “Thrilla In Manila” fight in the Philippines. He won the heavyweight title one last time in 1978, against Leon Spinks, making him the first fighter to win the heavyweight title three times.
Ali has been an advocate for many socio-political issues relating to civil rights and racial equality. On April 28th, 1967 the boxer stood against the U.S. war in Vietnam and refused to be drafted. This was highly controversial at the time and Ali even took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court where he was acquitted of all charges. In his argument against fighting in Vietnam the boxer famous said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong… No Viet Cong ever called me n***er.”
Ali entered the ring as a fighter for the last time in 1981.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Champ’s children, his widow Lonnie and his millions of fans across the world.