2016 has been brutally unrelenting on our emotional psyche. As we slowly recover from the gut-punch of losing David Bowie and Prince, suddenly, the world is yet again in mourning. Boxing icon Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74. Ali was hospitalized in Arizona while fighting respiratory issues when his condition took a turn for the worse on Friday (June 3). The former heavyweight champion was reportedly surrounded by his family at the time of his passing.
“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” spokesman Bob Gunnell said in a statement. “The Ali family would like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and support and asks for privacy at this time.”
Ali has struggled health-wise since being diagnosed with Parkinson disease in the 1980s. He had a worrisome hospital stay in January 2015, but bounced back from a severe urinary tract infection. His last reported public sighting was in April at an annual Celebrity Fight Night event in Phoenix.
You don’t have to be a fight fan, or watch sports for that matter, to understand the impact Muhammad Ali had on the world. The revered champ, who many referred to as the “Greatest of All Time” was born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. He won his first boxing title when he was 22-years-old via an upset victory over Sonny Liston in 1964.
A year later he converted to Islam and began fighting under the name Cassius X before eventually settling on Muhammad Ali. Already a polarizing personality in the sport for his brash trash-talking ways, Ali became a truly controversial figure when he refused to join the military during the Vietnam War. He was subsequently jailed and banned from the sport of boxing from 1967 to 1970. Ali reached global iconic status throughout his career for his dominance in the ring and public stance against injustice everywhere.
Muhammad Ali was survived by his fourth wife Lonnie, nine children and grandchildren. Ali’s funeral will take place in his hometown of Louisville, Gunnell confirmed in the statement. Further details were expected to be released throughout the weekend.