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Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali Dies at 74
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali died on Friday in a Phoenix hospital after battling a respiratory condition.
One of the most iconic sports figures of all time, the 74-year-old Ali had suffered from Parkinson’s disease since he was 42. A degenerative neurological condition that can rob victims of speech and mobility with no known cure, many experts believe his illness was caused by decades of taking head blows in the boxing ring.
Ali was first hospitalized for respiratory issues earlier this week, but his condition worsened rapidly, the Associated Press reported. His hometown of Louisville plans to hold a memorial service next Saturday, the wire service said.
“The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” family spokesman Bob Gunnell said in a statement Friday night. “The Ali family would like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and support and asks for privacy at this time.”
Although celebrated in the ring for his unorthodox and groundbreaking boxing style, Ali also became famous for speaking out on many of the social issues that defined his time.
Often, his brash, yet poetic, statements on race, religion and war generated both controversy and respect. Sadly, Parkinson’s eventually robbed him of the ability to express his personal convictions on a public stage.
Millions watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Atlanta in 1996, as the former superstar’s hands trembled so badly he could barely light the ceremonial torch to start the games.
In the 1960s, his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War led boxing officials to strip him of his heavyweight titles, and he was convicted as a draft evader, The New York Times reported.
But he appealed the verdict and filed for conscientious objector status in 1967. Although he lost more than three years of a brilliant boxing career, the U.S. Supreme Court finally granted him that status in 1971, the newspaper said.
He also converted to Islam in the 1960s, at which point he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali.
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