The world has lost a beloved civil rights and boxing champion who famously proclaimed himself “The Greatest” and then spent a lifetime living up to the billing, is dead.
Ali had suffered for three decades from Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive neurological condition that slowly robbed him of both his legendary verbal grace and his physical dexterity. A funeral service is planned in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky
Even as his health declined, Ali did not shy from politics or controversy, releasing a statement in December criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Drumpf proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda,” he said.
The remark bookended the life of a man who burst into the national consciousness in the early 1960s, when as a young heavyweight champion he converted to Islam and refused to serve in the Vietnam War, and became an emblem of strength, eloquence, conscience and courage. Ali was an anti-establishment showman who transcended borders and barriers, race and religion. His fights against other men became spectacles, but he embodied much greater battles.
Ali is generally considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time by boxing commentators and historians. Ring Magazine, a prominent boxing magazine, named him number 1 in a 1998 ranking of greatest heavyweights from all eras.
Ali was named the second greatest fighter in boxing history by ESPN.com behind only welterweight and middleweight great Sugar Ray Robinson. In December 2007, ESPN listed Ali second in its choice of the greatest heavyweights of all time, behind Joe Louis.
The Associated Press voted Ali the No. 1 heavyweight of the 20th century in 1999.