Muhammad Ali – “The Greatest” – Dead at the Age of 74

Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74.

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Muhammad Ali, ‘The Greatest of All Time’, Dead at 74
by JON SCHUPPE

Muhammad Ali, the silver-tongued boxer and civil rights champion who famously proclaimed himself “The Greatest” and then spent a lifetime living up to the billing, is dead.

Ali died Friday at a Phoenix-area hospital, where he had spent the past few days being treated for respiratory complications, a family spokesman confirmed to NBC News. He was 74.

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,” Bob Gunnell, a family spokesman, told NBC News.

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 Trump’s 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.

Born Cassius Clay on Jan. 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, to middle-class parents, Ali started boxing when he was 12, winning Golden Gloves titles before heading to the 1960 Olympics in Rome, where he won a gold medal as a light heavyweight.

He turned professional shortly afterward, supported at first by Louisville business owners who guaranteed him an unprecedented 50-50 split in earnings. His knack for talking up his own talents — often in verse — earned him the dismissive nickname “the Louisville Lip,” but he backed up his talk with action, relocating to Miami to train with the legendary trainer Angelo Dundee and build a case for getting a shot at the heavyweight title.

As his profile rose, Ali acted out against American racism. After he was refused services at a soda fountain counter, he said, he threw his Olympic gold medal into a river.

Recoiling from the sport’s tightly knit community of agents and promoters, Ali found guidance instead from the Nation of Islam, an American Muslim sect that advocated racial separation and rejected the pacifism of most civil rights activism. Inspired by Malcolm X, one of the group’s leaders, he converted in 1963. But he kept his new faith a secret until the crown was safely in hand.

That came the following year, when heavyweight champion Sonny Liston agreed to fight Ali. The challenger geared up for the bout with a litany of insults and rhymes, including the line, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” He beat the fearsome Liston in a sixth-round technical knockout before a stunned Miami Beach crowd. In the ring, Ali proclaimed, “I am the greatest! I am the greatest! I’m the king of the world.”

A Controversial Champion
The new champion soon renounced Cassius Clay as his “slave name” and said he would be known from then on as Muhammad Ali — bestowed by Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. He was 22 years old.

The move split sports fans and the broader American public: an American sports champion rejecting his birth name and adopting one that sounded subversive.

Ali successfully defended his title six times, including a rematch with Liston. Then, in 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, Ali was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army.

He’d said previously that the war did not comport with his faith, and that he had “no quarrel” with America’s enemy, the Vietcong. He refused to serve.

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big powerful America, and shoot them for what?” Ali said in an interview. “They never called me nigger. They never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me.”

His stand culminated with an April appearance at an Army recruiting station, where he refused to step forward when his name was called. The reaction was swift and harsh. He was stripped of his boxing title, convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison.

Released on appeal but unable to fight or leave the country, Ali turned to the lecture circuit, speaking on college campuses, where he engaged in heated debates, pointing out the hypocrisy of denying rights to blacks even as they were ordered to fight the country’s battles abroad.

“My enemy is the white people, not Vietcongs or Chinese or Japanese,” Ali told one white student who challenged his draft avoidance. “You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. You won’t even stand up for me in America for my religious beliefs and you want me to go somewhere and fight but you won’t even stand up for me here at home.”

Ali’s fiery commentary was praised by antiwar activists and black nationalists and vilified by conservatives, including many other athletes and sportswriters.

His appeal took four years to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June 1971 reversed the conviction in a unanimous decision that found the Department of Justice had improperly told the draft board that Ali’s stance wasn’t motivated by religious belief.

Return to the Ring
Toward the end of his legal saga, Georgia agreed to issue Ali a boxing license, which allowed him to fight Jerry Quarry, whom he beat. Six months later, at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, he lost to Joe Frazier in a 15-round duel touted as “the fight of the century.” It was Ali’s first defeat as a pro.

That fight began one of boxing’s and sport’s greatest rivalries. Ali and Frazier fought again in 1974, after Frazier had lost his crown. This time, Ali won in a unanimous decision, making him the lead challenger for the heavyweight title.

He took it from George Foreman later that year in a fight in Zaire dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle,” a spectacularly hyped bout for which Ali moved to Africa for the summer, followed by crowds of chanting locals wherever he went. A three-day music festival featuring James Brown and B.B. King preceded the fight. Finally, Ali delivered a historic performance in the ring, employing a new strategy dubbed the “rope-a-dope,” goading the favored Foreman into attacking him, then leaning back into the ropes in a defensive stance and waiting for Foreman to tire. Ali then went on the attack, knocking out Foreman in the eighth round. The maneuver has been copied by many other champions since.

The third fight in the Ali-Frazier trilogy followed in 1975, the “Thrilla in Manila” that is now regarded as one of the best boxing matches of all time. Ali won in a technical knockout in the 15th round.

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Muhammad Ali is seen at a news conference in Louisville, Kentucky, April 20, 1967, to say he will not accept miltary service of any nature when he is called for induction In Houston on April 28.  He said "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong," and that the real enemy of his people "is right here" and not in Vietnam or anywhere else.  (AP Photo)

Muhammad Ali is seen at a news conference in Louisville, Kentucky, April 20, 1967, to say he will not accept miltary service of any nature when he is called for induction In Houston on April 28. He said “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” and that the real enemy of his people “is right here” and not in Vietnam or anywhere else. (AP Photo)

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When asked why he wasn’t going to Vietnam:

They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they never put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father… Shoot them for what?

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This entry was posted in African Americans, Black History, Breaking News, Civil Rights, Culture, Honor, Human Rights, Open Thread, Racism, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

124 Responses to Muhammad Ali – “The Greatest” – Dead at the Age of 74

  1. rikyrah says:

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  6. Ametia says:

    White America, dont’ even try to compare that scoundrel running for president to Ali

    NO COMPARISON.

    N.O.N.E

    Like

  7. rikyrah says:

    to those who attempt to whitewash Muhammad Ali.

    From a Playboy interview in his OWN WORDS:

    “Do you think you’ll be remembered that way?

    I don’t know, but I’ll tell you how I’d like to be remembered: as a black man who won the heavyweight title and who was humorous and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him and who helped as many of his people as he could–financially and also in their fight for freedom, justice and equality. As a man who wouldn’t hurt his people’s dignity by doing anything that would embarrass them. As a man who tried to unite his people through the faith of Islam that he found when he listened to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And if all that’s asking too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxing champion who became a preacher and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”

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  24. rikyrah says:

    ☔️ Imani Gandy ☔️ @AngryBlackLady
    He was Muslim. You want a Trump presidency. Keep his name out of your mouth. https://twitter.com/SusanSarandon/status/739081582095523840

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  25. rikyrah says:

    ?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

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  26. rikyrah says:

    John Dingell ✔ @JohnDingell
    Muhammad Ali didn’t transcend race.

    He was Black. Powerful. Confident.

    He was everything that hateful people feared.

    He was the Greatest.

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  27. rikyrah says:

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  33. rikyrah says:

    About Ali:

    I was sad, but prepared for this loss.

    Doesn’t make it any less painful, but I can accept it.

    Ali was so much more than a boxer.

    Ozzie Davis said about Malcolm X at his funeral

    ” Malcolm was our manhood.”

    That might be so, but Ali had to have been our BLACKness.

    When Ali stood up there, it was as if he were channelling all the ancestors before him when he called America on its shyt. He put that mirror right up there and said

    LOOK AT YOURSELF

    and, then tell me why you think I should give a rat’s ass what you think of me.

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  34. rikyrah says:

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  35. rikyrah says:

    From Luvvie:

    Muhammad Ali. His Fight is Done, The Greatest Has Won
    Awesomely Luvvie — June 4, 2016

    Muhammad Ali. The Greatest is gone.

    Unlike the other iconic deaths of 2016, Muhammad Ali’s doesn’t break my heart or render me unable to function, because he was older than most of the others, and his life was lived fully. Although he spent the last 32 years of his 74 battling Parkinson’s, he still managed to LIVE.

    ……………………………………

    He was so much more than that bae ass athlete with the smile that lit up a room. LAWD, young Muhammad was FAHN, bruh. With swag for days and weeks. And he knew it, and was insufferable because of it, calling himself pretty. But when you can’t argue with it, all you can do is sulk and take peeks at him because he surely was a handsome somebody.

    He was so much more than the EPIC shit talker who would call your mama to the carpet and you had to deal because he could back that up ALL day. He was a rapper before we even know what rapping was, because he had BARS. He ethered folks each and every day. Like when he said: “Joe Frazier was so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head.”

    LMAO!!! That is so disrespectful and hilarious at the same damb time. KING PETTY WAP IN THE BUILDING. You know how I feel about icons who were also shade savants. They hold special place in my shady heart.

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    From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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  58. Growing up I can’t begin to tell you what Muhammad Ali meant to black people in my neck of the woods. Incredible pride.

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  61. rikyrah says:

    ‘I Just Wanted to Be Free’: The Radical Reverberations of Muhammad Ali

    Ali was shaped by his times. But his death should remind us that he also shaped them.

     The reverberations. Not the rumbles, the reverberations. The death of Muhammad Ali will undoubtedly move people’s minds to his epic boxing matches against Joe Frazier, George Foreman, or there will be retrospectives about his epic “rumbles” against racism and war. But it’s the reverberations that we have to understand in order to see Muhammad Ali as what he remains: the most important athlete to ever live. It’s the reverberations that are our best defense against real-time efforts to pull out his political teeth and turn him into a harmless icon suitable for mass consumption.

    When Dr. Martin Luther King came out against the war in Vietnam in 1967, he was criticized by the mainstream press and his own advisors who told him to not focus on “foreign” policy. But Dr. King forged forward, and to justify his new stand, said publicly, “Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.”

    When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island, he said that Muhammad Ali made him feel like the walls were not there.

    When John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists on the medal stand in Mexico City, one of their demands was to “Restore Muhammad Ali’s title.” They called Ali “the warrior-saint of the Black Athlete’s Revolt.”

    When Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) volunteers in Lowndes County, Alabama launched an independent political party in 1965, their new group was the first to use the symbol of a black panther. Beneath the jungle cat’s black silhouette was a slogan straight from the champ: “WE Are the Greatest.”

    When Billie Jean King was aiming to win equal rights for women in sports, Muhammad Ali would say to her, “Billie Jean King! YOU ARE THE QUEEN!” She said that this made her feel brave in her own skin.

    The question is why? Why was he able to create this kind of radical ripple throughout the culture and across the world?…

    http://www.thenation.com/article/i-just-wanted-to-be-free-the-radical-reverberations-of-muhammad-ali/

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  67. Liza says:

    This post and comment thread is extraordinary, a perfect and wonderful tribute to one of the most interesting, unique, courageous, and righteous people who has lived in this country.

    Well done, Mr. Ali, thank you for showing us the way to put our humanity above all else. RIP.

    Liked by 1 person

  68. rikyrah says:

    From the President and the First Lady on Muhammad Ali:

    Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d “handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.”

    But what made The Champ the greatest – what truly separated him from everyone else – is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing.

    Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.

    In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him – the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston. I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was – still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.

    “I am America,” he once declared. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”

    That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age – not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.

    He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes – maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.

    Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.

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  72. Ametia says:

    Wow JUST WOW! Blessings to the Champ & his family.

    Rikyrah, this tribute post to Mr. Muhammad Ali is the GREATEST. Thank you!

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  73. rikyrah says:

    ESPN has great coverage right now.

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  74. rikyrah says:

    “I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain’t going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people. If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fightin’ you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won’t even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won’t even stand up for my rights here at home.”

    Liked by 1 person

  75. rikyrah says:

    Awesomely Luvvie ✔ @Luvvie
    Remember that Blackness. Because when the greats die, folks love to windex away their melanin. Nah. He was unapologetically BLACK.

    Liked by 1 person

  76. rikyrah says:

    Nice photo stream here:

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  77. rikyrah says:

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  78. rikyrah says:

    30 of Muhammad Ali’s best quotes.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/boxing/2016/06/03/muhammad-ali-best-quotes-boxing/85370850/

    My favs

    “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

    “I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”

    “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

    “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” (the bestest imo)

    “Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”

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  79. rikyrah says:

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  82. rikyrah says:

    Obama: What Muhammad Ali meant to me
    Barack Obama, Special for USA TODAY Sports

    In 2010, in celebration of Muhammad Ali’s 50 years on the world stage, President Barack Obama penned for USA TODAY Sports the following essay on what Ali has meant to him:

    It was the winter of 1959, six months before he would take the sport of boxing by storm at the Rome Olympics, and Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was on the move. Rising at 4 in the morning, before the first glimmer of daylight broke the horizon, Clay would put on his sweats, lace up a pair of old steel-toed Army work boots, and run out into the biting cold. He would crisscross his beloved Louisville, often racing the school bus for 20 blocks down Chestnut Street. “Why doesn’t he ride to school like everybody else?” one student asked. “He’s crazy,” replied one of Clay’s classmates. “He’s as nutty as can be.”

    As the world would come to know, that young man would always chart his own course. I was too young to remember Clay before he became Muhammad Ali, when he was not only the heavyweight champion of the world but also at times the object of controversy and even scorn. And I was still in grade school when Ali made his extraordinary comeback after nearly four years of exile and later shocked the world by winning his title back.

    It was this quality of Ali’s that I have always admired the most: his unique ability to summon extraordinary strength and courage in the face of adversity, to navigate the storm and never lose his way.

    This is the quality I’m reminded of when I look at the iconic photo I’ve had hanging on my wall of the young fighter standing over Sonny Liston. And in the end, it was this quality that would come to define not just Ali the boxer but Ali the man — the Ali I know who made his most lasting contribution as his physical powers ebbed, becoming a force for reconciliation and peace around the world.

    We admire the man with a soft spot for children, who, while visiting a hospital in Philadelphia many years ago, picked up a boy with no legs. Gazing into the child’s eyes, Ali said, “Don’t give up. They’re sending men into space. You will walk someday and do this,” and proceeded to do the famous Ali Shuffle with the giggling boy in his arms.

    We admire the man who has never stopped using his celebrity for good — the man who helped secure the release of 14 American hostages from Iraq in 1990; who journeyed to South Africa upon Nelson Mandela’s release from prison; who has traveled to Afghanistan to help struggling schools as a United Nations Messenger of Peace; and who routinely visits sick children and children with disabilities around the world, giving them the pleasure of his presence and the inspiration of his example.

    And we admire the man who, while his speech has grown softer and his movement more restricted by the advance of Parkinson’s disease, has never lost the ability to forge a deep and meaningful connection with people of all ages.

    Asked why he is so universally beloved, he holds up a shaking hand, fingers spread wide, and says, “It’s because of this. I’m more human now. It’s the God in people that connects them to me.”

    This is the Muhammad Ali who inspires us today — the man who believes real success comes when we rise after we fall; who has shown us that through undying faith and steadfast love, each of us can make this world a better place. He is, and always will be, the champ.

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  83. rikyrah says:

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  87. rikyrah says:

    @EdgeofSports 2h2 hours ago

    During Katrina: Black woman with sign “No Iraqi Left Me To Die On A Roof.” That’s Ali’s “No Vietnamese ever called me n***er”. He endures.

    Liked by 1 person

  88. rikyrah says:

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  89. rikyrah says:

    Ali gave up his LIVELIHOOD for what he believed in.

    his LIVELIHOOD.

    none of these modern athletes, let alone the twitter kids, understand that.

    let along have that kind of conviction.

    Liked by 1 person

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  95. Rikyrah, you always come through with such an excellent post. Thank you.

    The hits just keep coming. The Greatest has now left us too. RIP Muhammad Ali

    Liked by 3 people

    • yahtzeebutterfly says:

      I will always appreciate learning the significance of this from my colleague during a summer when we led activities on a playground in a Black community.

      Like

  96. rikyrah says:

    2016 has sucked.

    RIP Champ.

    You stood up for what’s right when it was not popular. Thank you for all your fights, inside and outside the ring.

    There will never be another like you.

    Liked by 4 people

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