Los Angeles, June 4 (IANS) Legendary former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who had been hospitalised following respiratory problems, has passed away, a family spokesman said.
“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74,” family spokesman Bob Gunnell said in a statement on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.
Ali, known as Cassius Clay before he converted to Islam, began boxing training at the age of 12 years.
He won the World heavyweight championship at the age of 22 in 1964. He was stripped of his title in 1967 after he cited his religious beliefs and rufused to be conscripted in the US Army due to his opposition to the Vietnam war. He again won the title again in 1974 and 1978.
Ali had been hospitalized in Phoenix, Arizona this week due to respiratory problems, although his condition was said to be stable.
Paradise Valley Police Department in Arizona told ABC network an emergency medical call was made from Ali’s address in Phoenix on Thursday, reports Efe.
The Phoenix Fire Department also confirmed responding to a call on the same day to assist a 74-year-old man with respiratory issues.
One of the greatest boxers in the history, Ali retired in 1981 and soon found signs of sluggishness and neurological damage. He thereafter received treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
The legendary boxer had been hospitalized several times in recent years, including in early 2015 with a severe urinary infection that was initially diagnosed as pneumonia.
Ali appeared weaker with every public appearance he made, the last being on April 9 when he was seen wearing sunglasses at the annual Celebrity Fight Night gala in Phoenix to raise funds for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
However the sporting icon led a relatively peaceful life with his fourth wife Lonnie, who he married in 1986.
Ali’s death touches more than just the boxing world as he was one of the most recognised people in the world for his actions both in and out of the ring.
His conversion to Islam, name changes and opposition to the Vietnam War polarised the country.
However, he later became a symbol of peace with his messages on freedom, peace and equality.
“A true great has left us. Muhammad Ali transformed this country and impacted the world with his spirit,” said Bob Arum, his longtime boxing promoter.