UNITED STATES—Boxing legend Muhammad Ali passed away on Friday, June 3 after battling complications involving his respiratory system at a Phoenix hospital. The boxer, who has been labeled the ‘Greatest of All Time’ was 74 at the time of his passing. A family spokesperson confirmed the news of the athlete’s passing to NBC News Friday.
“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 Bob Gunnell, a family spokesman to NBC News.
Ali, whose real name is Cassius Clay, was admitted to the facility on Thursday, but his condition worsened on Friday.
Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1984, which is a degenerative disorder that impacts the central nervous system impacting the motor system and motor skills. Such symptoms of the illness include visible shaking, rigidity, slow movement and some difficulty walking. The disease can be described as primary or secondary, where primary Parkinson’s has no known cause, but is believed to have a genetic component. Secondary Parkinson’s Disease is believe to be linked to toxins.
He gained notoriety for his quick speed in the boxing ring and his charisma and tough talking with the press. He was born in 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. He started training as a boxer at the young age of 12. He won his first world heavyweight championship against Sonny Liston at the age of 22 in 1964. He changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam.
The boxer’s refusal to be drafted by the US Army to fight in the Vietnam War led him to being arrested and denied the opportunity to box for almost 4 years, until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the case in 1971. That same year, Ali battled against Joe Frazier which many named the “Fight of the Century” at the time. It was the boxer’s first lost by a unanimous decision in his professional career. He battled Frazier yet again in 1974 and won by a unanimous decision by the judges. Other famous battles in the ring included fights against George Foreman, Floyd Patterson, Chuck Wepner and Ron Lyle. He retired in 1981 from the boxing ring.
In December 2014, he was hospitalized for a minor case of pneumonia, and again in January 2015 for a urinary tract infection. He was married a total of 4 times during his life and resided in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is remembered by many for the popular phrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” which has becomes synonymous with the boxing legend. He holds a record of 56 wins, and only 5 losses while in the boxing ring.
Many sports figures took to Twitter to express their sympathy in light of Ali’s passing. Boxing legend Mike Tyson tweeted, “God came for his champion. So long great one. @MuhammadAli #TheGreatest #RIP.” Other celebrity tweets included Oscar De La Hoya who tweeted “RIP @muhammadali, a legend who transcended sport and was a true champion for all. #thegreatest #MuhammadALi.” Boxer George Forman tweeted, “Ralph Ali, Frazier & Foreman were 1 guy. A part of me slipped away, The greatest piece.”
The boxing legend is survived by his wife Yolanda Williams (Lonnie) and his nine children, 7 girls and 2 boys, which includes his daughter, boxing champion Laila Ali.