The term “legend” is overused, often directed at individuals who are undeserving of the title. Such is not the case for legendary boxer and humanitarian Muhammed Ali. After a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, Ali finally succumbed to complications this past week while being treated for respiratory issues in a Phoenix hospital. He was 74-years old.
Ali’s boxing career was marked by both brilliance and controversy. As a brash young pugilist, he made his mark on the boxing world in the late 1960s through the 1970s with a record of 55-5. During this time, he claimed the World Heavyweight title three times (a record) and fought some of the sport’s greatest fighters. Among his most dangerous opponents were Hall of Fame fighters like Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Floyd Patterson.
His brilliance in the ring was only tempered by his knack for generating controversy with his poems; fight predictions and the nicknames he assigned to opponents. While his “trash talking” brought with it a lot of entertainment value, it also offended people in the sport who took exception to some of his comments.
To non-boxing fans, he will always be remembered as the “conscientious objector” who refused to enlist for military service in Vietnam due to his Islamic beliefs. His decision riled the nation, resulting in a 3-year suspension from boxing. After resuming his boxing career, he would continue his siege on the Heavyweight title.
Outside of the ring, Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay) garnered a reputation as a true humanitarian. Even during the 20-something years he was battling Parkinson’s, he travelled the world and spoke out about poverty, racial inequality and the quest for peace throughout the world. It is in his role as an ambassador to the world that he will be missed by family, friends and the legion of fans he acquired throughout his many years.