Muhammad Ali 'The Greatest of all time’ Dies at 74
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News June 04, 2016 Updated: 5:55 AM
Three-time heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, who charmed millions with his wit and confidence in the ring and inspired many more with his commitment to humanitarian causes died Friday, the family's spokesman said. He was 74.
"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,” said family spokesperson Bob Gunnell.
Ali had been hospitalized in the Phoenix area -- where he passed away -- for a respiratory issue June 2. At the time, a rep said he was in fair condition.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942, he said he learned to fight as a child after someone stole his bicycle. He first captured the world's attention as an 18-year-old in 1960 with a gold-medal boxing victory at the Olympics in Rome. He was just three months out of high school.
As a teenager, he'd call boxing coaches to tell them that one day he would be their world champion. And, indeed, in 1964 - at the age of 22 - he defeated big Sonny Liston to become the world heavyweight champion, the youngest boxer ever to hold the title.
It was in this spotlight that Cassius Clay announced he was changing his name and converting to Islam because he said the religion simply appealed to him.
Muhammad Ali remained the world heavyweight champion from 1964 until 1967. But then his dream career came to a halt when he failed to show up at the draft board, saying he was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War and that fighting was against his religion. He was arrested and stripped of both his boxing license and his heavyweight title.
"I'm not allowed to fight in America, I'm not allowed to leave America," he said. "I've been persecuted before prosecuted."
Ali was forced out of the ring for three years until the Supreme Court overturned his draft evasion conviction. But he might have lost some of his best boxing years.
At Madison Square Garden in 1971, in what was billed as "the fight of the century," Ali's comeback bid was stopped by longtime nemesis Joe Frazier. It was Ali's first professional defeat and it would take him three years and several more bruising fights to come back.
In 1974, Ali regained the heavyweight title in a highly publicized bout in Zaire known as "The Rumble in the Jungle." Where he defeated George Foreman.
A year later, he garnered worldwide headlines again when he faced Frazier in a fight dubbed "The Thrilla in Manilla." Ali triumphed after an exceptionally brutal 14 rounds.
Even as his health gradually declined, Ali — who switched to more mainstream branches of Islam — threw himself into humanitarian causes, traveling to Lebanon in 1985 and Iraq in 1990 to seek the release of American hostages.
In 1996, he lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta, lifting the torch with shaking arms. With each public appearance he seemed more feeble, a stark contrast to his outsized aura. He continued to be one of the most recognizable people in the world.
As the terrible physical effects by Parkinson's disease took it’s toll on him, Ali made an appearance at an event there in October 2015 along with two of his former opponents, George Foreman and Larry Holmes, as Sports Illustrated renamed its Legacy Award in his honor.
Never one to keep his opinions quiet, Ali spoke out during the current presidential campaign against Donald Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
"True Muslims know the ruthless violence of so-called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion," Ali, one of the most famous Muslim figures in the world, said in a statement. "I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people's views on what Islam really is."
The Muhammad Ali Center, which he founded in his hometown of Louisville, promotes Ali's humanitarian and educational mission and showcases his legacy as a boxer.