Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dies aged 74

04/06/2016 07:36

Muhammad Ali has died at the age of 74, a family spokesman has confirmed.

The three-time world heavyweight champion had suffered from Parkinson's disease since 1984 - three years after he retired from the sport.

Ali had been hospitalized in the Phoenix area this week with a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson's. He died on Friday evening.

A statement from spokesman Bob Gunnell said: "Muhammad Ali's funeral will take place in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

"The Ali family would like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and support and asks for privacy at this time."

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17 1942.

As an amateur, he won the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, defeating the more experienced Polish southpaw Zbigniew Pietrzykowski in the final. Clay turned pro 54 days later and relocated to Miami to work with top trainer Angelo Dundee.

He soon rose through the heavyweight ranks, delighting crowds with his shuffling feet, lightning reflexes and outgoing personality.

The American beat Sonny Liston, who quit on his stool after the sixth round, on February 25 1964 to win his first world title.

At the time of his first fight with Liston, Clay was already involved with the Nation of Islam, a religious movement whose stated goals were to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African Americans in the United States, which outraged many white Americans.

The boxer then changed his name to Muhammad Ali after his conversion to Islam.

He was widely criticised by his countrymen for opposing the US war in Vietnam and his refusal to be inducted into the army angered them furthermore.

After Ali successfully defended his title six times, including a rematch with Liston, he was convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his title and banned from boxing. He would not fight again for nearly four years.

Ali was handed his first professional defeat by Joe Frazier in the "Fight of the Century" in New York on March 8 1971. He suffered a 15th round knockdown and lost a unanimous decision. Ali outpointed Frazier in a second fight and regained his title with an eighth round knockout of George Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle" in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) on October 30 1974.

He fought Frazier for a third and final time in the Philippines on October 1 1975, coming out on top in the "Thrilla in Manila" when Frazier failed to emerge for the 15th and final round.

Ali eventually lost the world title on points to Leon Spinks in February 1978, although he regained it by the end of the year, avenging his defeat when he scored a decision over Spinks in a rematch.

Ali retired, only to come back and attempt to win the title for a fourth time against Larry Holmes on October 2 1980, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. But he suffered a one-sided defeat when his trainer Dundee stopped the fight at the end of the 10th round.

He fought just once more and lost a 10-round decision to Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas.

In 1999 he was named the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Century.

He lit the Olympic cauldron at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and carried the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Games in London.

Ali had 61 professional bouts, winning 56 (37 by knockout) with 5 defeats.

There will never be another like Muhammad Ali.

Gone but never forgotten.