Muhammad Ali, one of the seminal figures of the 20th century, has died.
The former heavyweight champion was admitted to hospital in Phoenix, Arizona on Thursday. He had been suffering with a respiratory illness that was further complicated by his Parkinson’s disease. In the early hours of this morning, a family spokesman confirmed the boxing icon’s death.
The world will mourn the passing of ‘The Greatest’, a sportsman and political activist whose success, skill and swagger injected much needed self-confidence into the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.
Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, and shot to stardom when he won Gold in the Rome Olympics in 1960. By 1964 he was World Heavyweight Champion, having defeated Sonny Liston. His mixture of lightning reactions, distinctive footwork and showmanship won him fans globally and have led many to call him the greatest boxer of all time.
He fought until 1981, winning 56 of his 61 fights and capturing the title belt on three separate occasions. He was the first ever boxer to achieve this feet.
His pre-fight lyrical jibes to his opponents elevated his celebrity status. Ali’s rhymes, bravado and competitive flair inspired some of rap’s greatest MCs, with his catchphrase – ‘Float like a butterfly / Sting like a bee’ – recited by many.
Furthermore, Ali was a committed political activist. He campaigned for civil rights alongside Malcolm X, and refused conscription to America’s much-criticized war in Vietnam in 1966. In doing so, he sacrificed his heavyweight title and millions of dollars, putting his principles over prestige and profit.
He was a devout Muslim, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali after winning his first heavyweight championship. He was long affiliated with the civil rights organization the Nation of Islam.
In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, a disease commonly associated with head trauma. The disease had a marked effect on his ability to communicate over his remaining life.
In 1999, the British public voted Ali as Sports Person of the Century.
The world will remember an electric athlete and personality who inspired millions.