PHOENIX, AX (CelebrityAccess) — Muhammad Ali, a charismatic three-time world heavyweight boxing champion whose outspoken politics made him one of the most controversial figures in the history of modern sports, died on Friday at a Phoenix-area hospital. He was 74.
According to the New York Times, his death was confirmed by family spokesman Bob Gunnell, who said that Ali had died from septic shock.
Ali suffered from Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years was admitted to the hospital on June 3rd with what Mr. Gunnell said was a respiratory problem.
Ali, born Cassius Clay, is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers to grace the ring. He was known for his unusual boxing style, which leverage his speed, agility and power to make him a dangerous opponent in the ring. As well, his brash confidence and charisma outside of the ring helped to propel him into the international spotlight.
Ali was also known for his outspoken politics, refusing to be drafted during the Vietnam war, declaring himself a conscientious objector, a decision that would cost him more than 3 years in the prime of his career after various state boxing commissions suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. He was also convicted and sentenced to prison for refusing to submit to the draft, a verdict that was eventually overturned in a unanimous decision by the Unites States Supreme Court.
He was also known for his conversion from Christianity to Islam, including the rejection of his "slave name" Cassius Clay and embracing the black separatist movement. As the Civil Rights movement gained traction in concordance with the anti-war movement, Ali became a popular speaker at colleges around the country.
In 1978 Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and he retired from professional boxing after his final fight in 1981, but still stayed in the public eye for years, providing product endorsements, including being the first boxer to appear on the Wheaties box.
In 2005, describing Ali as the greatest boxer of all time, President George W. Bush presented him with the Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony. – Staff Writers