Three-time heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, whose charmed the world with his wit and confidence in the ring and his commitment to humanitarian causes has died, according to a spokesman. He was 74.
The champ was hospitalized on June 2nd and a family representative said he was in fair condition.
Considered the greatest fighter in the history of boxing, Ali retired after losing to Trevor Berbick in his 61st career bout.
Just months after, Ali, who had begun showing signs of sluggishness and neurological deterioration even in the 70’s, began treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
Famous for his skill and his bravado, Ali called himself “The Greatest” and almost always backed it up. He was married four times and had nine children.
Ali won 100 of 108 amateur fights and won Olympic gold at the 1960 summer games in Rome. He later through the medal into a river after being refused service in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky because he was black.
After going pro and backing up his braggadocio, Ali told Sports Illustrated, “Most of them [other boxers] … can fight almost as good as I can. I’m just saying you never heard of them. And the reason for that is because they cannot throw the jive. Cassius Clay is a boxer who can throw the jive better than anybody.”
That was before the trash-talking underdog went on to beat Sonny Liston using the tactic he called “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
After refusing to serve in the Army during the Vietnam war and declaring himself a conscientious objector, Ali was stripped of the belt and widely despised by the American public. Once permitted to fight again, he would quickly reclaim his championship, but the public would be hesitant to accept him.
That all changed at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta when Ali, shaking from Parkinson’s but strugging on, would light the Olympic flame and win the adulation of the entire nation.