Boxing legend and former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali passed away Friday, June 3, from respiratory complications at a hospital near Phoenix, Arizona. He was 74. Ali had been an advocate for Parkinson’s Disease more than 30 years after his initial diagnosis. He had also been battling advanced symptoms in recent years. The disease can lead to complications that affect the breathing of patients.
Ali was admitted to the hospital on Thursday for what his spokesperson believed would be a brief stay. (Ali last had a multi-day hospital stay in January of last year, receiving treatment for a urinary tract infection.) Doctors warned Ali’s family members that his health appeared worse than during prior admissions. According to a source close to Ali’s family who spoke with NBC, Ali had been in grave condition. Los Angeles Times sports writer Lance Pugmire tweeted a similar message to his followers.
Can confirm from very strong source that it's "very, very grave" for @MuhammadAli.
Boxer Amir Khan also sent a message expressing his support to Ali’s family via Twitter, which included the hashtag #AliBomaye, referencing a chant heard during 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle,” a match Ali had with George Foreman in what was then the Republic of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). Ali won the match by knockout, putting Forman down before the end of the eighth round.
Ali, who changed his name from Cassius Clay after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, had reduced his public visibility in recent years, but he remained a recognized celebrity worldwide for his accomplishments in the boxing ring. He won an Olympic gold medal as a light-heavyweight in 1960 and a World Heavyweight Championship after defeating Sonny Liston by knockout in the seventh round in 1964. At age 22, he became the youngest boxer to take the title from a reigning heavyweight champion, a record which he held until 1986, when a then 20-year old Mike Tyson took the title from reigning champion Trevor Berbick. Ali would receive numerous accolades before officially retiring from professional boxing in 1979.