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Muhammad Ali dies at the age of 74

An American icon is no longer with us; Muhammad Ali died Friday night in Arizona at the age of 74. He passed on after being admitted on Thursday to HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center for a respiratory issue, according to CNN. He first rose to prominence as a boxer in the 1960s, and later was a gentle but forceful defender of human rights and equality, never afraid to speak up and stand for his beliefs.

Long time Ali family spokesperson Bob Gunnell released a statement: “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. The Ali family would like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and support and asks for privacy at this time.”

The world spoke out in remembrance and in mourning for the larger-than-life person who we first knew as Cassius Clay from Louisville, Kentucky. He converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964, the same year he won the World Heavyweight Champion title for the first time. Athletes, entertainers, politicians, and world leaders spoke about this man who charmed so many with his humor and his poetry, while risking prison and forfeiting his title for his beliefs.

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President Barack Obama spoke for himself and the First Lady. “Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing,” Obama said in a statement. “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 a ceremony on Saturday in Kentucky, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, said Ali “lived a life so big and bold, it’s hard to believe that any one man could do everything he did, could be all the things that he became in the course of just one lifetime.” Fischer added, “Muhammad Ali belongs to the world, but he only has one hometown. The ‘Louisville Lip’ spoke to everyone, but we heard him in a way no one else could — as our brother, our uncle, and our inspiration.”

As CNN recounted from Ali’s book, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey, Ali said he wanted to be remembered as “a man who won the heavyweight title three times, 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 people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.”
Ali also said, “And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people, And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”