Muhammad Ali - A Tribute

Muhammad Ali, who declared “I am the greatest” and proved it many times over, infuriating some and captivating countless more as he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee on his way to winning the world heavyweight championship a record three times, becoming perhaps the most widely recognized person on the planet, died Friday in Phoenix. He was 74. Mr. Ali had long suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome. The condition was understood to be a consequence of his boxing career.
Arguably boxing's most celebrated athlete, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was also known for his public stance against the Vietnam War and his longtime battle with Parkinson's disease.


Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942, Muhammad Ali became an Olympic gold medalist in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964. Following his suspension for refusing military service, Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title two more times during the 1970s, winning famed bouts against Joe Frazier and George Foreman along the way. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He died on June 3, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Boxer, philanthropist and social activist Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali showed at an early age that he wasn't afraid of any bout—inside or outside of the ring. Growing up in the segregated South, he experienced racial prejudice and discrimination firsthand.

At the age of 12, Ali discovered his talent for boxing through an odd twist of fate. His bike was stolen, and Ali told a police officer, Joe Martin, that he wanted to beat up the thief. "Well, you better learn how to fight before you start challenging people," Martin reportedly told him at the time. In addition to being a police officer, Martin also trained young boxers at a local gym.

Ali started working with Martin to learn how to spar, and soon began his boxing career. In his first amateur bout in 1954, he won the fight by split decision. Ali went on to win the 1956 Golden Gloves tournament for novices in the light heavyweight class. Three years later, he won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, as well as the Amateur Athletic Union's national title for the light heavyweight division.

In 1960, Ali won a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team, and traveled to Rome, Italy, to compete. At 6' 3", Ali was an imposing figure in the ring, but he also became known for his lightning speed and fancy footwork. After winning his first three bouts, Ali defeated Zbigniew Pietrzkowski from Poland to win the light heavyweight gold medal.

After his Olympic victory, Ali was heralded as an American hero. He soon turned professional with the backing of the Louisville Sponsoring Group, and continued overwhelming all opponents in the ring. Ali took out British heavyweight champion Henry Cooper in 1963, and then knocked out Sonny Liston in 1964 to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

Often referring to himself as "the greatest," Ali was not afraid to sing his own praises. He was known for boasting about his skills before a fight and for his colorful descriptions and phrases. In one of his more famously quoted descriptions, Ali told reporters that he could "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" in the boxing ring.

This bold public persona belied what was happening in Ali's personal life, however. He was doing some spiritual searching and decided to join the black Muslim group the Nation of Islam in 1964. At first he called himself "Cassius X" before settling on the name Muhammad Ali. (The boxer eventually converted to orthodox Islam during the 1970s.) 

Ali later started a different kind of fight with his outspoken views against the Vietnam War. Drafted into the military in April 1967, he refused to serve on the grounds that he was a practicing Muslim minister with religious beliefs that prevented him from fighting. He was arrested for committing a felony and almost immediately stripped of his world title and boxing license.

The U.S. Department of Justice pursued a legal case against Ali, denying his claim for conscientious objector status. He was found guilty of violating Selective Service laws and sentenced to five years in prison in June 1967, but remained free while appealing his conviction. Unable to compete professionally in the meantime, Ali missed more than three prime years of his athletic career. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually overturned the conviction in June 1971.

Prior to the Supreme Court's decision, Ali returned to the ring in 1970 with a win over Jerry Quarry. The following year, Ali took on Joe Frazier in what has been called the "Fight of the Century." Frazier and Ali went toe-to-toe for 14 rounds before Frazier dropped Ali with a vicious left hook in the 15th. Ali recovered quickly, but the judges awarded the decision to Frazier, handing Ali his first professional loss after 31 wins. Ali soon suffered a second loss, to Ken Norton, but he beat Frazier in a 1974 rematch.

Another legendary Ali fight, against undefeated heavyweight champion George Foreman, took place in 1974. Billed as the "Rumble in the Jungle," the bout was organized by promoter Don King and held in Kinshasa, Zaire. For once, Ali was seen as the underdog to the younger, massive Foreman, but he silenced his critics with a masterful performance. He baited Foreman into throwing wild punches with his "rope-a-dope" technique, before stunning his opponent with an eighth-round knockout to reclaim the heavyweight title.

Ali and Frazier locked horns for their grudge match in Quezon City, Philippines, in 1975. Dubbed the "Thrilla in Manila," the bout nearly went the distance, with both men delivering and absorbing tremendous punishment. However, Frazier's trainer threw in the towel after the 14th round, giving the hard-fought victory to Ali.

After losing his title to Leon Spinks in February 1978, Ali defeated him in a September rematch, becoming the first boxer to win the heavyweight championship three times. Following a brief retirement, he returned to the ring to face Larry Holmes in 1980, but was overmatched against the younger champion. Following one final loss in 1981, to Trevor Berbick, the boxing great retired from the sport.

In his retirement, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy. He announced that he had Parkinson's disease in 1984, a degenerative neurological condition, and was involved in raising funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the years, Ali also supported the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among other organizations. In 1996, he lit the Olympic cauldron at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, an emotional moment in sports history.

Ali traveled to numerous countries, including Mexico and Morocco, to help out those in need. In 1998, he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace because of his work in developing nations.

In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. He also opened the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, that same year. "I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given," he said. "Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another."

Despite the progression of Parkinson's and the onset of spinal stenosis, Ali remained active in public life. He was on hand to celebrate the inauguration of the first African-American president in January 2009, when Barack Obama was sworn into office. Soon after the inauguration, Ali received the President's Award from the NAACP for his public service efforts.

Things began taking a turn for the worse within a few years. In early 2015, Ali was hospitalized for a severe urinary tract infection after having battled pneumonia. He was hospitalized again in early June 2016 for what was reportedly a respiratory issue. The revered athlete passed away on the evening of June 3, 2016, at a Phoenix, Arizona facility.

Ali was survived by his fourth wife, Yolanda, whom he had been married to since 1986. The couple had one son, Asaad, and Ali had several children from previous relationships, including daughter Laila Ali, who followed in his footsteps by becoming a champion boxer.

Universally regarded as one of the greatest boxers in history, Ali's stature as a legend continued to grow even as his physical state diminished. He continues to be celebrated not only for his remarkable athletic skills but for his willingness to speak his mind and his courage to challenge the status quo.


 Heavy weight boxer Muhammad Ali seen after knocking-out his British challenger Richard Dunn in the fifth round of their fight, in Munich, Germany, on May 25, 1976. Born as Cassius Clay, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, dubbed as 'The Greatest,' died on June 3 in Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of 74. (EPA)

Heavy weight boxer Muhammad Ali seen after knocking-out his British challenger Richard Dunn in the fifth round of their fight, in Munich, Germany, on May 25, 1976. Born as Cassius Clay, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, dubbed as 'The Greatest,' died on June 3 in Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of 74. (EPA)

 A Muhammad Ali robe is displayed at the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

A Muhammad Ali robe is displayed at the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson pose after a pre-fight physical in New York, on Sept. 11, 1972. (Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson pose after a pre-fight physical in New York, on Sept. 11, 1972. (Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times)

 Filipino boxing aficionado Marco Jose Revilla pays respect to an artwork by Monica Jane Valerio depicting Muhammad Ali inside the 'Ali Mall', the country's first mall named after the legendary boxing champion displayed in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Philippines, on June 4. (Mark R. Cristino/EPA)

Filipino boxing aficionado Marco Jose Revilla pays respect to an artwork by Monica Jane Valerio depicting Muhammad Ali inside the 'Ali Mall', the country's first mall named after the legendary boxing champion displayed in Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Philippines, on June 4. (Mark R. Cristino/EPA)

 Muhammad Ali poses with gloves in this undated portrait. (Action Images/Sporting Pictures)

Muhammad Ali poses with gloves in this undated portrait. (Action Images/Sporting Pictures)

 Muhammad Ali yells during a news conference in New York on Aug. 29, 1974. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, has died according to a statement released by his family on June 3, 2016. He was 74. (Ron Frehm/Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali yells during a news conference in New York on Aug. 29, 1974. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, has died according to a statement released by his family on June 3, 2016. He was 74. (Ron Frehm/Associated Press)

 US boxer Muhammad Ali (left) taking on Floyd Patterson at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 22, 1965. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

US boxer Muhammad Ali (left) taking on Floyd Patterson at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 22, 1965. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

 Muhammad Ali shouts during the weigh-in for his fight against Joe Bugner at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 14, 1973. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

Muhammad Ali shouts during the weigh-in for his fight against Joe Bugner at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 14, 1973. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

 Heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay arrived at his Boston training camp to launch final preparations for the title rematch with Sonny Liston. The champion mugged a bit for the benefit of the patrons of his training site at the Schine Inn at Chiopee, and scrawled on posters advertising the fight; "Bear On The Loose." Clay's pet name for Liston is "The Bear." (Associated Press)

Heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay arrived at his Boston training camp to launch final preparations for the title rematch with Sonny Liston. The champion mugged a bit for the benefit of the patrons of his training site at the Schine Inn at Chiopee, and scrawled on posters advertising the fight; "Bear On The Loose." Clay's pet name for Liston is "The Bear." (Associated Press)

 Young heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, points to a sign he wrote on a chalk board on Nov. 15, 1962 in his dressing room before his fight against Archie Moore in Los Angeles. (Harold P. Matosian/Associated Press)

Young heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, points to a sign he wrote on a chalk board on Nov. 15, 1962 in his dressing room before his fight against Archie Moore in Los Angeles. (Harold P. Matosian/Associated Press)

 Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali addresses a gathering at a Black Muslim convention in Chicago on Feb. 25, 1968 . (Associated Press)

Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali addresses a gathering at a Black Muslim convention in Chicago on Feb. 25, 1968 . (Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali with family at his training camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Aug. 24, 1973. Belinda Boyd, Ali’s wife, is at right; their children are Muhammad Jr., 1; twin daughters Rasheda and Jamillah, 3; Maryum, 5. (William E. Sauro/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali with family at his training camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Aug. 24, 1973. Belinda Boyd, Ali’s wife, is at right; their children are Muhammad Jr., 1; twin daughters Rasheda and Jamillah, 3; Maryum, 5. (William E. Sauro/The New York Times)

 Muhammad Ali, or Cassius Clay at the time, beats his chest in triumph after toppling Britain's Beatles at his training camp in Miami Beach, Fla., on Feb. 18, 1964. The Beatles, left to right: Paul McCartney; John Lennon; George Harrison and Ringo Starr, were on Holiday in the resort after their American tour. (Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali, or Cassius Clay at the time, beats his chest in triumph after toppling Britain's Beatles at his training camp in Miami Beach, Fla., on Feb. 18, 1964. The Beatles, left to right: Paul McCartney; John Lennon; George Harrison and Ringo Starr, were on Holiday in the resort after their American tour. (Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali joking with a baby during a work out for his fight against Ron Lyle at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, Nev., on May 12 1975. Born Cassius Clay, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, dubbed as 'The Greatest,' died on 03 June 2016 in Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of 74. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

Muhammad Ali joking with a baby during a work out for his fight against Ron Lyle at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, Nev., on May 12 1975. Born Cassius Clay, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, dubbed as 'The Greatest,' died on 03 June 2016 in Phoenix, Ariz., at the age of 74. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

 Muhammad Ali jokes with television sports commentator Howard Cosell before the start of the Olympic boxing trials, in West Point, NY., on Aug. 7, 1972. (Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali jokes with television sports commentator Howard Cosell before the start of the Olympic boxing trials, in West Point, NY., on Aug. 7, 1972. (Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali spars with a young admirer at the Elma Lewis benefit held at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston. (Bill Curtis/Globe Staff)

Muhammad Ali spars with a young admirer at the Elma Lewis benefit held at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston. (Bill Curtis/Globe Staff)

 Muhammad Ali at Logan airport in Boston, talked to a crowd from his bus while changing planes. (John Blanding/Globe Staff)

Muhammad Ali at Logan airport in Boston, talked to a crowd from his bus while changing planes. (John Blanding/Globe Staff)

 Muhammad Ali trains at his camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Jan. 17, 1974. Ali, a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion whose brash self-confidence and personal convictions made him the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, died in Phoenix on June 3, 2016. He was 74. (Robert Walker/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali trains at his camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Jan. 17, 1974. Ali, a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion whose brash self-confidence and personal convictions made him the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, died in Phoenix on June 3, 2016. He was 74. (Robert Walker/The New York Times)

 Muhammad Ali watches as defending world champion George Foreman goes down to the canvas in the eighth round of their WBA/WBC championship match in Kinshasa, Zaire on Oct. 30, 1974. (Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali watches as defending world champion George Foreman goes down to the canvas in the eighth round of their WBA/WBC championship match in Kinshasa, Zaire on Oct. 30, 1974. (Associated Press)

 Joe Frazier (right) lands a left hook on Muhammad Ali during the first of their three epic battles at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 8, 1971. The Fight of the Century (also known as The Fight) is the title boxing writers and historians have given to the boxing match between champion Joe Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) and challenger Muhammad Ali (31-0, 25 KOs). (Action Images)

Joe Frazier (right) lands a left hook on Muhammad Ali during the first of their three epic battles at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 8, 1971. The Fight of the Century (also known as The Fight) is the title boxing writers and historians have given to the boxing match between champion Joe Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) and challenger Muhammad Ali (31-0, 25 KOs). (Action Images)

 A large crowd turns out as Muhammad Ali visited Harlem on Dec. 9, 1974. (Neal Boenzi/The New York Times)

A large crowd turns out as Muhammad Ali visited Harlem on Dec. 9, 1974. (Neal Boenzi/The New York Times)

 Muhammad Ali evades a left from Joe Frazier during their title bout, the “Fight of the Century,” at Madison Square Garden in New York, on March 8, 1971. Five years after being stripped of his titles for refusing to register for the draft, Ali suffered the first defeat of his career here. Ali died in Phoenix on June 3. (Larry C. Morris/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali evades a left from Joe Frazier during their title bout, the “Fight of the Century,” at Madison Square Garden in New York, on March 8, 1971. Five years after being stripped of his titles for refusing to register for the draft, Ali suffered the first defeat of his career here. Ali died in Phoenix on June 3. (Larry C. Morris/The New York Times)

 Joe Frazier is directed to a corner by referee Arthur Marcante after Frazier knocked down Muhammad Ali during the 15th round of the title bout in Madison Square Garden in New York on March 8, 1971. Frazier won the bout over Ali by decision. (Associated Press)

Joe Frazier is directed to a corner by referee Arthur Marcante after Frazier knocked down Muhammad Ali during the 15th round of the title bout in Madison Square Garden in New York on March 8, 1971. Frazier won the bout over Ali by decision. (Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) trains at his Pennsylvania mountain retreat in Owigsburg on Aug., 27, 1974 for his fight against George Foreman in Zaire. (Action Images)

Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) trains at his Pennsylvania mountain retreat in Owigsburg on Aug., 27, 1974 for his fight against George Foreman in Zaire. (Action Images)

 Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, left, applauds as challenger Joe Frazier, right, makes some remarks about world champion Muhammad Ali, second from left, during their call on Marcos at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines on Sept. 18, 1975. (Jess Tan/Associated Press)

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, left, applauds as challenger Joe Frazier, right, makes some remarks about world champion Muhammad Ali, second from left, during their call on Marcos at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines on Sept. 18, 1975. (Jess Tan/Associated Press)

 Spray flies from the head of challenger Joe Frazier as heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali connects with a right in the ninth round of their title fight in Manila, Philippines on Oct. 1, 1975. (Mitsunori Chigita/Associated Press)

Spray flies from the head of challenger Joe Frazier as heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali connects with a right in the ninth round of their title fight in Manila, Philippines on Oct. 1, 1975. (Mitsunori Chigita/Associated Press)

 Moroccan King Hassan II (right) decorating former World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali during a ceremony in the Royal Palace in Rabat on Jan. 15, 1998. (Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

Moroccan King Hassan II (right) decorating former World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali during a ceremony in the Royal Palace in Rabat on Jan. 15, 1998. (Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

 Argentinian boxer Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez (left) and the president of the World Boxing Council, Jose Sulaiman (right), place the crown of "King of Boxing" on former American boxer Muhammad Ali during the 50th Convention of the World Boxing Council in Cancun in this Dec. 3, 2012. (Victor Ruiz Garcia/REUTERS)

Argentinian boxer Sergio "Maravilla" Martinez (left) and the president of the World Boxing Council, Jose Sulaiman (right), place the crown of "King of Boxing" on former American boxer Muhammad Ali during the 50th Convention of the World Boxing Council in Cancun in this Dec. 3, 2012. (Victor Ruiz Garcia/REUTERS)

 American swimmer Janet Evans passes the Olympic flame to Muhammad Ali during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in Atlanta on July 19, 1996. (Michael Probst/Associated Press)

American swimmer Janet Evans passes the Olympic flame to Muhammad Ali during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in Atlanta on July 19, 1996. (Michael Probst/Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali, reknown as 'The Greatest' fighter of all times, poses next to a Wheaties 'The Breakfast of Champions' poster during the unveiling of the 75th Anniversary cereal box in his honor in New York, on Feb. 4, 1999. 'Muhammad Ali is quite possibly the most recognized sports figure of our time,' said Wheaties market manager Jim Murphy. 'That's why we are especially proud to recognize him on our box during our 75th anniversary celebration.' (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali, reknown as 'The Greatest' fighter of all times, poses next to a Wheaties 'The Breakfast of Champions' poster during the unveiling of the 75th Anniversary cereal box in his honor in New York, on Feb. 4, 1999. 'Muhammad Ali is quite possibly the most recognized sports figure of our time,' said Wheaties market manager Jim Murphy. 'That's why we are especially proud to recognize him on our box during our 75th anniversary celebration.' (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

 Orson Welles (from left), US actor-singer Dean Martin, and Sports announcer Howard Cosell laughing at US boxer Muhammad Ali during the Dean Martin Roast of Muhammad Ali at the MGM in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 18, 1976. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

Orson Welles (from left), US actor-singer Dean Martin, and Sports announcer Howard Cosell laughing at US boxer Muhammad Ali during the Dean Martin Roast of Muhammad Ali at the MGM in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 18, 1976. (Las Vegas News Bureau via EPA)

 Muhammad Ali is greeted in downtown Kinshasa, Zaire on Sept. 17, 1974 who was in Zaire to fight George Foreman. (Associated Press)

Muhammad Ali is greeted in downtown Kinshasa, Zaire on Sept. 17, 1974 who was in Zaire to fight George Foreman. (Associated Press)

 Boxing legend Muhammad Ali stands with his wife Yolanda as he is introduced before the welterweight fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 1, 2010. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali stands with his wife Yolanda as he is introduced before the welterweight fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 1, 2010. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

 WBC and WIBA super middleweight champion Laila Ali is kissed by her father, boxing great Muhammad Ali, at the MCI Center in Washington on June 11, 2005. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

WBC and WIBA super middleweight champion Laila Ali is kissed by her father, boxing great Muhammad Ali, at the MCI Center in Washington on June 11, 2005. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

 President George W. Bush awards boxing legend Muhammad Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as Ali's wife Lonnie watches, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington on s Nov. 9, 2005. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President George W. Bush awards boxing legend Muhammad Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as Ali's wife Lonnie watches, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington on s Nov. 9, 2005. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

 Men pass a large sign by an escalator near the entrance of the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, died according to a statement released Friday by his family. He was 74. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

Men pass a large sign by an escalator near the entrance of the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, died according to a statement released Friday by his family. He was 74. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

 Muhammad Ali tapes his right hand for a training session at his camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Jan. 17, 1974. (Robert Walker/The New York Times)

Muhammad Ali tapes his right hand for a training session at his camp in Deer Lake, Pa., on Jan. 17, 1974. (Robert Walker/The New York Times)

 US boxing great Muhammad Ali poses during the Crystal Award ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 28, 2006. (Andreas Meier/Reuters)

US boxing great Muhammad Ali poses during the Crystal Award ceremony at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 28, 2006. (Andreas Meier/Reuters)

 Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Me., on May 25, 1965. (John Rooney/Associated Press )

Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Me., on May 25, 1965. (John Rooney/Associated Press )

 Muhammad Ali knocks out Cleveland Williams at the Astrodome, Houston, 1966

Muhammad Ali knocks out Cleveland Williams at the Astrodome, Houston, 1966

 A flower placed on display as a tribute to the life of heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali at the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, died according to a statement released Friday by his family. He was 74. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

A flower placed on display as a tribute to the life of heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali at the "I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali" exhibition at the O2 arena, which hosts high profile boxing fights in London, on June 4. Ali, the magnificent heavyweight champion whose fast fists and irrepressible personality transcended sports and captivated the world, died according to a statement released Friday by his family. He was 74. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)