Former world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, whose record-setting career, unprecedented flair for showmanship and controversial stands made him one of the best-known figures of the 20th century, died on Friday aged 74.
Ali’s death was confirmed in a statement issued by family spokesman Bob Gunnell late on Friday evening, a day after he was admitted to a Phoenix, Arizona-area hospital with a respiratory ailment.
The cause of death or the name of the hospital where he died were not immediately disclosed.
Ali had long suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which impaired his speech and made the once-graceful athlete almost a prisoner in his own body.
Few could argue with Ali’s athletic prowess at his peak in the 1960s. With his dancing feet and quick fists, he could — as he put it — “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”
He was the first person to win the heavyweight championship three times.
Ali was more than a colorful and interesting athlete. He spoke boldly against racism in the 1960s, as well as the Vietnam War.
During and after his championship reign, Ali met scores of world leaders and for a time, he was considered the most recognizable person on Earth.
Once asked about his preferred legacy, Ali said: “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,” he said. “And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”
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