THE KING IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE KING
ONE OF A KIND One of the world’s greatest athletes, who transcended his sport, race and politics, dies at 74
PHOENIX: He was fast of fist and foot – lip too – a heavyweight champion who promised to shock the world and did. He floated. He stung. Mostly he thrilled, even after the punches had taken their toll and his voice barely rose above a whisper. He was The Greatest.
Muhammad Ali died Saturday at age 74, according to a statement from the family. He was hospitalised in the Phoenix area with respiratory problems earlier this week, and his children had flown in from around the country. “It’s a sad day for life, man. I loved Muhammad Ali, he was my friend. Ali will never die,” Don King, who promoted some of Ali’s biggest fights, said early Saturday. “Like Martin Luther King his spirit will live on, he stood for the world.”
A funeral will be held in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The city plans a memorial service Sunday.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honour Ali. “The values of hard work, conviction and compassion that Muhammad Ali developed while growing up in Louisville helped him become a global icon,” Fischer said. “As a boxer, he became The Greatest, though his most lasting victories happened outside the ring.”
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Ali began boxing at age 12 after his new bicycle was stolen and he vowed to policeman Joe Martin that he would “whup” the person who took it. He was only 89 pounds at the time, but Martin began training him at his boxing gym, the beginning of a six-year amateur career that ended with the light heavyweight Olympic gold medal in 1960.
With a wit as sharp as the punches he used to “whup” opponents, Ali dominated sports for two decades before time and Parkinson’s disease, triggered by thousands of blows to the head, ravaged his magnificent body, muted his majestic voice and ended his storied career in 1981.
CONTINUED ON P10
I am the greatest. I am the greatest that ever lived.