BOXING legend Muhammad Ali, Friday, lost his 32 year-long battle with the Parkinson disease. The eloquent, colorful, controversial and brilliant three-time heavyweight boxing champion who was known as much for his social conscience and staunch opposition to the Vietnam War as for his dazzling boxing skills, died in a Phoenix area hospital in his native USA, aged 74.
Ali was rushed to the hospital on Thursday for treatment for a respiratory issue.
The once loquacious Ali was largely muted for the last quarter century of his life, quieted by his battle with the disease.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on Jan. 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali learned to box after his bicycle was stolen when he was 12 years old. When young Clay vowed to “whoop the behind” of the thief, a local police officer encouraged him to learn to box to channel his energy.
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.
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.
He would go on to become known as “The Greatest,” and at his peak in the 1970s was among the most recognizable faces on Earth.
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.
He was known for his tendency to recite poems while making predictions about his fights “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” as well as for giving opponents often unflattering nicknames. He referred to Sonny Liston as “the big ugly bear,” George Chuvalo as “The Washerwoman,” Floyd Patterson as “The Rabbit” and Earnie Shavers as “The Acorn.”
But his most controversial and some would say cruel, nicknames were reserved for his fiercest rival, Joe Frazier.
He first dubbed Frazier “Uncle Tom” and then later called him “The Gorilla.”
When Ali prepared to meet Frazier for a third time in Manila, Philippines, on Oct. 1, 1975, he frequently carried a toy rubber gorilla with him. At one news conference, he pulled the gorilla out of his pocket and began punching it as he said, “It’s going to be a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the gorilla in Manila.”
Frazier, though, took it personally and harbored a decades-long grudge.
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.