Muhammad Ali has died aged 74 after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
The legendary boxer – widely regarded as the best of all time – died with his family at his side on Friday evening, a day after he was rushed to hospital with difficulty breathing.
Greatest boxer Ali then and recently
‘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,’ Ali’s spokesman said.
Ali’s family said his funeral would be held in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and thanked the public for their outpouring of support.
Ali had been on life support at a hospital outside Phoenix, Arizona, after he was found ‘barely breathing’ at his home on Thursday.
He was taken to hospital with an ‘unshakeable cough’, a separate source said, with his fatal respiratory problems likely to have been complicated by his Parkinson’s disease.
The Greatest was surrounded by his family, who rushed to be at his bedside on Friday after doctors warned his condition was ‘rapidly deteriorating’, a source said.
It was earlier reported that Ali’s family had started making funeral arrangements after doctors warned that he was just hours from death.
Ali married four times, most recently to his current wife Lonnie, and has nine children – seven daughters and two sons.
He will be remembered for his stunning victories against the likes of Sonny Lister, as well as George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle and Joe Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila. Ali also won gold at the 1960 Olympics.
His trash-talking and way with words – which produced unforgettable quotes such as ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ – were also part of what made Ali the best boxer to ever take to the ring.
But it was boxing that would eventually be his downfall – with the sheer number of blows he took to the head thought to be linked to Parkinson’s, which he was diagnosed with in 1984.
Laila Ali spoke about her father’s health struggles in interview with People in March, saying: ‘He’s such a fighter, still, when at times he seems weak and not able to handle it.
‘He comes through stronger than ever. He’s still fighting regardless and I love my dad for that.’
A representative for Laila told Entertainment Tonight on Friday: ‘Laila’s number one priority is her father’s well-being.
‘She truly appreciates the outpouring of love for her family, as she spends quality time with her dad.’
Ali’s health last took a turn for the worse in early 2015, when he was treated for a severe urinary tract infection initially diagnosed a month earlier as pneumonia.
His high profile and willingness to share his very public struggle with Parkinson’s helped raise awareness of the disease.
His diagnosis was long-linked to the number of times he took blows to the head during fights.
The boxer looked increasingly frail during public appearances over the past few years, including his last outing in April.
He wore sunglasses and was seen hunched over at the annual Celebrity Fight Night dinner in Phoenix, which raises funds for the treatment of Parkinson’s.
His last public appearance prior to that was in October of last year when he appeared at the Sports Illustrated Tribute to Muhammad Ali at The Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, Ali took up boxing at age 12, when his bike was stolen and he wanted to find and whip the culprit.
The boy was introduced to Joe Martin, a police officer who coached boxing at a local gym.
Ali’s brother, 68-year-old Rahaman Ali, recalled on Saturday night that the champ was cheerful and happy as a youngster.
‘As a little boy he (said) he would be the world’s greatest fighter and be a great man,’ he said.
Ali flourished in the ring, becoming a top amateur and Olympic gold medalist in Rome in 1960.
He made his professional debut in Louisville and arranged for a local children’s hospital to receive proceeds from the fight.
Ali won his first world title in 1964, beating Sonny Liston on a technical knockout in the seventh round.
Soon after the fight, he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and announced his conversion to Islam.
Ali refused to fight in Vietnam – a decision that alienated him from many across the U.S. and resulted in a draft-evasion conviction.
As a result, the heavyweight champion of the world was stripped of his title after every state refused to grant him a boxing license.
Ali found himself embroiled in a long legal fight that ended in 1971, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor and he was allowed to box once more.
He lost his first bid to regain the heavyweight crown when Frazier knocked him down and took a decision in the ‘Fight of the Century’ at Madison Square Garden in 1971.
Ali regained the heavyweight title in 1974, defeating Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle in what was then Zaire.
A year later, he outlasted Frazier in the epic Thrilla in Manila bout in the Philippines.
Ali’s last title came in 1978, when he defeated Leon Spinks.