Muhammad Ali, the man known as “The Champ”, has died at the age of 74.
The legendary boxer passed away Friday at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. According to a family spokesman, Ali had been suffering from a respiratory illness and complications of Parkinson’s disease.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Marcellus Clay rose to become an accomplished boxer at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, winning the gold medal. He earned his first world title in 1964 by beating famed contender Sonny Liston. Over a twenty-year career, Ali won 56 of his 61 fights and three world titles. Brash, confident and outspoken, he often declared himself to be “The Greatest”, which the media loved.
Apart from boxing, Ali was known for his work as a civil rights activist. Having joined the Nation of Islam, he changed his name of Cassius Clay to Cassius X and finally to Muhammad Ali. During the mid-1960s, he lobbied for the rights of African-Americans.
In 1967, Ali spoke out against the Vietnam War and refused to be drafted. He was charged with draft evasion, stripped of his world title and banned from boxing. Four years later, Ali returned to beat Joe Frazier on March 8, 1971 for the heavyweight title. This match came to be regarded as “The Fight of the Century.”
Ali continued his career with several more bouts, including the October 30, 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinashe, Zaire. His third and final match against Frazier took place on October 1, 1975 in Manilla, Phillippines. The “Thrilla in Manilla” saw Ali win by technical knockout after fourteen rounds. He retired in 1981.
Following his retirement, Ali had been declared the “Sportsman of the Century” by “Sports Illustrated”. His career was dramatized in Michael Mann’s 2001 film “Ali”, which starred Will Smith.