‘Greatest of all time’ Muhammad Ali dies aged 74

The former boxer died in a Phoenix-area hospital where he spent the past two days, family spokesman says

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World renowned heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali has passed away on Friday at the age of 74, leaving behind a legacy filled with trophies, knock-outs and controversial stands, making him out of the most well-known athletes of the 20th century.

Ali, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, was rushed to the hospital after a respiratory ailment earlier this week. A family spokesman confirmed his death at a Phoenix-area hospital.

“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74,” spokesman Bob Gunnell said.

His Parkinson’s, thought to be linked to the thousands of punches he took during a career studded by bruising battles inside the ropes, had limited his public speaking.

Many athletes, celebrities and fans rushed to social media to praise the record-breaking boxer, and share their condolences.

“My heart is deeply saddened yet both appreciative and relieved that the greatest is now resting in the greatest place,” boxer Roy Jones Jr. said on Twitter.

Longtime boxing promoter Bob Arum said, “Muhammad Ali transformed this country and impacted the world with his spirit…his legacy will be part of our history for all time.”

“He is, without a question in my mind, the most transformative person of our time,” Arum said.

In Pictures: Muhammad Ali’s legendary life

Muhammad Ali waves to the crowd during the opening ceremony of the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, September 2010.  (Reuters)

Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942, and then changed his name after he converted to Islam.

The self-proclaimed “greatest” hit his peak during the 1960s, using his quick feet and jabs to win 56 out of 61 boxing matches. The famous Ali quote “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” has long been used in pop culture around the world, in reference to the boxer.

Ali has nine children with his wife, Lonnie Williams, whom he had known since he was a child in Louisville.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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