Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali dead at age 74

Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali dead at age 74

June 04, 2016 8:22 AM
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He simply was the greatest, inside the boxing ring and out.

Muhammad Ali, the charismatic three-time heavyweight boxing champion of the world and Olympic gold medalist who transcended the world of sports to become a symbol of the antiwar movement of the 1960s and ultimately a global ambassador for cross-cultural understanding, died Friday night at a hospital in Phoenix, where he was living. He was 74.

Shortly before Ali’s passing, his close friend and confident Gene Kilroy said from his Las Vegas residence, “Muhammad was always good on the ropes. He had such kindness for others and never cared about money, but for people. He would write six figure checks to those that touched him. I was very close to him and honored for allowing me to be his friend.”

The Associated Press and other news outlets confirmed the death. The boxer had been hospitalized with respiratory problems related to Parkinson’s disease, which had been diagnosed in the 1980s.

Ali dominated boxing in the 1960s and 1970s and held the heavyweight title three times. His fights were among the most memorable and spectacular in history, but he quickly became at least as well known for his colorful personality, his showy antics in the ring and his standing as the country’s most visible member of the Nation of Islam.

When he claimed the heavyweight championship in 1964, with a surprising upset of the formidable Sonny Liston, Mr. Ali was known by his name at birth, Cassius Clay. The next day, he announced that he was a member of the Nation of Islam, a move considered shocking at the time, especially for an athlete. He soon changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be,” he said at the time, signaling his intent to define his career on his own terms. “I’m free to be what I want.”

Ali came to represent a new kind of athlete, someone who created his own style in defiance of the traditions of the past. Glib, handsome and unpredictable, he was perfectly suited to television, and he became a fixture on talk shows as well as sports programs.

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