Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali 1942-2016

Muhammad Ali, three-time heavyweight boxing champion and sometimes controversial civil rights figure, has died after being hospitalized in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He had been placed on life support yesterday evening.  Ali had battled Parkinson's disease for over 30 years.

Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born in Louisville, Kentucky and started has amateur boxing career at age 12 in 1954.  He won six Kentucky Gold Glove titles, two national Gold Glove titles, and the light-heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.  He turned professional and ran up a 19-0 record before successfully challenging the reigning heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in 1964.  Afterwards, Clay converted to Islam, joined the Nation of Islam, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.  Due to his new religious beliefs, Ali declared himself to be a conscientious objector to the draft and to the war in Vietnam.  In 1967, he was arrested, charged and convicted of draft dodging, and had his boxing licence suspended.  The conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971.  He resumed boxing in 1970 and lost for the first time in 1971, to Joe Frazier, whom he would twice defeat later during that decade.  He retired from boxing in 1981 with a record of 56 wins and 5 losses.

During his career, Ali called himself "The Greatest", and was known for the slogan "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee".  In 1975, he converted to Sunni Islam, the largest sect of that religion, and later embraced Sufism.  In 1996, he was given the honor of lighting the torch at the start of the Olympics in Atlanta.

Ali was married four times and had nine children, including one by adoption.  In 1986, he married his fourth wife, the former Yolanda Williams, having first met her in 1964.  Ali's funeral will be held in his hometown of Louisville.

Read more at ESPN, NBC News, Reuters, the Daily Mail and the Bowling Green Daily News (who cite the Associated Press as their source).

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