Following a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease, boxing great Muhammad Ali died on Friday at the age of 74.
A family spokesperson confirmed to Omnisport that “after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammed Ali has passed away at the age of 74. The three-time World Heavyweight champion boxer died this evening.”
Ali’s funeral will take place in his hometown of Louisville.
The Louisville native was a controversial figure during his fighting career and a sympathetic one following his diagnosis.
Considered by many to be the best boxer in history, Ali proclaimed himself as the “Greatest of all time” in 1964 and the title stuck. Although defeated five times in his career, he is often referred to as “The Greatest” and is at the top of most boxing rankings.
Ali, born in 1942 as Cassius Clay, began boxing at the age of 12. Two years later, he was a Golden Gloves novice champion as a light heavyweight. He won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions and the Amateur Athletic Union’s national title for the light-heavyweight division at the age of 17.
The 6-3 Ali won Olympic Gold in 1960 and turned pro a year later. It took him just four years to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, knocking out Sonny Liston in 1964. Ever boastful, Ali floated “like a butterfly” and stung “like a bee” in the ring.
— Muhammad Ali (@MuhammadAli) June 4, 2016
While his confident swagger came off as arrogance to some, his biggest controversies involved his conversion to Islam in 1964 and his refusal of military service during the Vietnam War. Because of his stance against the military, he was suspended from boxing for over three years and stripped of his title.
When he returned to the ring in 1970, Ali made quick work of Jerry Quarry before going 15 rounds with champion Joe Frazier, who won the “Fight of the Century” by unanimous decision.
Following a second loss to Ken Norton, Ali defeated Frazier in 1974 to set up a title fight with champion George Foreman in Zaire.
Dubbed “The Rumble In The Jungle,” Ali “handcuffed lightning” and knocked out Foreman in the eighth round. Ali’s “rope-a-dope” style of letting Foreman go on the attack, wore Foreman out because Ali was fast enough to move out of harm’s way. It’s been a strategy later used by champions Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.
Ali and Frazier fought a third time in 1975 at the “Thrilla in Manilla” and Ali won by a 15th-round TKO.
Ali remains the only three-time lineal heavyweight champ – capturing titles in 1964, 1974 and 1978. Of his 56 victories, 37 were by knockout.
Following his career, Ali devoted his life to civil rights causes and philanthropy. While Ali has never denied throwing his 1960 gold medal into the Ohio River as a protest of racial strife, he was given a replacement in 1996 and lit the Olympic torch at the Atlanta Games.
An aging Ali lost three of his last four fights before retiring in 1981. A loss to Larry Holmes in 1980 was thought to be the cause of his Parkinson’s Disease, of which he was diagnosed in 1984.
Ali received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 1997 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He received the Otto Hahn Peace Medal of Gold in Germany later that year for his work with the U.S. civil rights movement.
Ali was a star away from boxing. He appeared in multiple TV shows and inspired several films. Will Smith received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Ali in the 2001 movie, “Ali.”
Ali was married four times and had seven daughters and two sons. His daughter, Laila, later became a boxer and has never been defeated as a professional.