Muhammad Ali dead at 74 but will forever be The Greatest
06/04/2016 12:28 AM
Muhammad Ali died Friday following breathing complications made worse by Parkinson’s Disease. Word spread quickly Thursday that the 74-year-old was hospitalized in Phoenix for a respiratory issue. His family spokesperson initially reported Ali was in fair condition and that the family was expecting a short stay in the hospital. But Ali’s condition worsened and his family flew to Arizona to be by his side. His family’s spokesperson released a statement shortly after midnight Saturday announcing his death.
CN|2’s TJ Beisner takes a look back at Ali’s life, career and legacy.
Throughout his professional career, he was known simply as the “greatest.” Born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville in January of 1942 he would win a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Four years later he would fight Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title. Clay said he would float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. The young 22 year old would shock the world winning by TKO when Liston failed to answer the bell in the 7th round.
Shortly after winning the world title Clay joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. In 1967 he refused to be drafted into the Army citing his religious beliefs. He would eventually be found guilty of draft evasion and was stripped of his title. His appeal would go all the way to the Supreme Court and in 1971, his conviction was overturned. Later that year he fought Joe Frazier for the heavyweight crown at Madison Square Garden. It was dubbed the “Fight of the Century.” Frazier decked Ali in the 15th and Smoking Joe won the fight by unanimous decision.
By 1974, George Foreman was the heavyweight champ and Ali met him in Zaire. “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali regained the title with an 8th round knockout. Following that a third match with Frazier was set up. Ali had defeated Frazier in their second fight at the Garden. The third fight is famously known as the “Thrilla in Manila.” Ali was victorious a second time against Frazier. By the end of the 70s Ali’s skills as a boxer were eroding. He lost fights to Leon Spinks and his former sparring parner, Larry Holmes. Before a fight with Holmes in 1980, Ali had begun to experience vocal stutters and trembling hands. Yet he was cleared to fight and was dominated by Holmes. His final fight was against Trevor Berbick in 1981 in the Bahamas. A loss by decision in ten rounds.
In 1984 Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Some doctors feel it was brought on by the many blows to the head he suffered throughout his boxing career. Ali had nine children and was married four times. His wife Lonnie has been by his side since 1986. In his life after boxing, Ali was involved in charity work, political causes and in 1996 he lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta. In 2005 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His public appearances have been few and far between in recent years. He did attend the funeral of Joe Frazier in 2011 and was at the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics in 2012. One of his last public appearances was this past September in his hometown of Louisville. The legendary boxer was awarded the University of Louisville’s Grawemeyer Spirit Award for inspiring others. At that Ceremony Ali raised his right hand to acknowledge the crowd’s chants of “Ali! Ali!”