Muhammad Ali dies at age 74 after long battle with Parkinson’s disease

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 takentheir toll and his voice barely rose above a whisper. He was “The Greatest.” Muhammad Ali died Friday, according to a statement from his family. He was 74.

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“We lost a legend, a hero and a great man,”Floyd Mayweather told ESPN. Ali had been hospitalized in the Phoenix area this week with respiratory issues, and his children had flown in from around the country. The Paradise Valley Police Department told ABC News that an emergency medical services call was made from Ali’s address in the Phoenix area on Tuesday, and the Phoenix Fire Department confirmed it responded to a call for mutual aid for a 74-year-old male with respiratory issues at that time.
Retired from boxing since 1981, Ali had battled Parkinson’s disease for decades. He had been hospitalized a few other times in recent years, including in early 2015, due to a severe urinary tract infection initially diagnosed as pneumonia. Ali had looked increasingly frail in public appearances, the last coming April 9 when he wore sunglasses and was hunched over at the annual Celebrity Fight Night dinner in Phoenix, which raises funds for treatment of Parkinson’s.

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He had been living quietly in the Phoenix area with his fourth wife, Lonnie, whom he married in 1986. Ali’s funeral will be held in his hometown of Louisville, with further details expected to be released Saturday morning, spokesman Bob Gunnell said. The city plans a memorial service
Saturday, and flags there will be put at half-staff in the morning.

Ali’s death reaches far beyond the sport of boxing. He was one of the world’s most recognized people for his actions in and out of the ring. His stance on the military draft and conversion to Islam polarized America mainly along racial lines. Yet later he unified people with his messages of freedom, peace and equality. He fought in three different decades, finished with a record of 56-5 with 37 knockouts and was the first man to win heavyweight titles three times. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” his corner-men exhorted, and he did just that in a way no heavyweight had ever fought before. He whipped the fearsome Sonny Liston twice, toppled the mighty George Foreman with the rope-a-dope in Zaire, and nearly fought to the death with Joe Frazier in the Philippines. Through it all, he was trailed by a colorful entourage who merely added to his growing legend. RIP The Great Ali.

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