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Muhammad Ali has died at the age of 74, a family spokesman has said.

The former world heavyweight boxing champion, one of the world’s best-known sportsmen, died at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix in Arizona state after being admitted on Thursday.

He was suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.

The funeral will take place in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, his family said in a statement.

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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.

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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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.

 

  • 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.

 

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.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali blows a kiss after receiving Sports Illustrateds 20th Century Sportsman of the Century Award 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.

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.

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(bbc.com)
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23 COMMENTS

    • The Rumble in the Jungle, the monumental heavyweight showdown between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman on October 30, 1974 in what was then Zaire. “Ali bomaye!” was a popular audience chant..

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    • MHSRIP…great sportsman indeed. I remember, as a young boy, staying awake the whole night waiting to watch him fight at 04:00hrs Zambian time.

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    • We used to wake up in the 1970s around 04hours to watch on black and white TV Muhammad Ali fight Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman and other boxing greats. We loved Ali’s pre-fight and post-fight hype, especially the one involving him and Joe Frazier. He always called himself the “greatest boxer who danced like a butterfly and stung like a bee”. We immortalized Ali, but in his illness with parkinsons disease and his death we were and have been brought home to reality about how mortal Ali, the heavyweight boxer par excellence, was and remains. Boxing has been robbed of one of its greatest icons. I will always remember Muhammad Ali for the rest of my life. RIP Ali

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    • this man was more conscious of his africaness than most africanc living on the continent. he had a love of the black people worldwide than our people today. each punch he threw out was done to fight white supremacy/ racism. This indeed was a true son of africa.

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  1. RIEP the greatest pound for pound boxer.I was privileged to watch his fights towards the end of his glittering career.

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    • sorry zambia sphere,
      ali was not a pound for pound boxer.
      please do a research on pound for pound boxers…
      MHSRIP.

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  2. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016 was an American professional boxer, generally considered the greatest heavyweight in the history of the sport. Early in his career, Ali was known for being an inspiring, controversial and polarizing figure both inside and outside the boxing ring. He was one of the most recognized sports figures of the past 100 years, crowned “Sportsman of the Century”

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  3. I remember my late dad waking us up @ 03hrs or something to watch one of his fights. Unfortunately his health suffered from some of the punishment received from fighting what must have been the greatest crop of heavyweights of any era, giants like “smoking” Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Ernie Shavers, Sonny Liston, Joe Bugner, the list goes on & on. RIP champ…

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  4. jeke,
    My Pa also rounded us all up to crowd the B&W TV set at that ungodly hour. I remember the watching the rumble in the jungle live on ZTV shortly after Kaunda had commissioned the Mwembeshi Satellite station. I read his biography “The Greatest” several times in my secondary school days and I’m going to order another for a re-read. He was a champion in and outside the ring and remains an inspiration to me. May his great beautiful and wonderful soul rest in peace.

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  5. Ali Bomaye, Ali Bomaye! RIP greatman. You united people around the world cutting across colour, race and religion. A great boost and insipiration to the civil rights movement. A real hero and legend. Go well marvelous Ali.

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  6. Mushota, you may never have heard of him, that matters less. What matters is that he heard of you when he fought the establishment to restore the pride of the black citizens across the globe! He used the ring to champion the cause of the down-trodden to great effect.

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    • the first constructive post i have read about the man which really shows what he was really about. most people just stop at him being a boxer. few know about his fight against the white racism system establishment. He himself tells you that he would like to be remembered as a man who never sold out and was about black people first than being a boxer. but alas, few will know still.

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  7. “It will be a killer and a chiller and a thriller when I get the gorilla in Manila.”

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  8. The Greatest!

    The Poet.
    The man who had me hate Leon Spinks simply because he (Spinks) beat Ali (up?).
    We had two brothers named Joe Ngoma and Frazier Ngoma in my neighborhood…
    Joe later became Joe ‘Bugner’..
    The guy in the ‘hood’ with a broken tooth became ‘Spinks’

    RIP pretty one!

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  9. Mohammed Ali fought a good fight, both in the ring, and out of the ring, especially out of the ring. He transcended boxing. He stood up for what he believed in without degenerating to hate.

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