Photo via cliff1066/Flickr (CC-BY)
Boxing superstar and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali passed away on Friday night. He was 74 years old.
An ambulance had reportedly been called to Ali's home in Phoenix on Tuesday. He was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for respiratory issues, where his condition worsened. Ali had suffered from Parkinson's for decades, among many other health issues that sadly plagued his retirement from boxing.A family spokesperson confirmed the news of Ali's passing to ABC News, which was one of the first outlets to report on his death. Earlier on Friday, the Miami Marlins had prematurely made the same announcement, interrupting a match-up between the New York Mets. Save for a few befuddled tweets, social media stayed mostly silent regarding the potential Marlins gaffe. Tributes from prominent celebrities from all walks of life began appearing on Twitter following news reports, however. Ali will be honored in his hometown of Louisville, according to mayor Greg Fischer, who tweeted that flags will be lowered to half-staff on Saturday morning. The Kentucky metropolitan and its citizens have dedicatedly honored their native son throughout the years, erecting a multicultural arts center bearing his name as well as restoring Ali's childhood home.
That humble house at 3302 Grand Ave. has been turned into a museum to celebrate the early years of the man born Cassius Clay. Its grand opening was the Saturday prior to his death and had been championed by his brother, Rahman, also a former heavyweight boxer.
Born on Jan. 17, 1942, Ali took to boxing at age 12. A decade later, he would face Sony Liston, upsetting the heavyweight champion in a match that would put him on the map. Ali would win the heavyweight belt not only that night but twice more over the course of his career. He would go on to earn an Olympic gold medal at the 1960 Summer Games as well.
Ali was deeply committed to his faith, outspoken, and dedicated to philanthropic endeavors well beyond the issues he brought to the public conscience in interviews. His efforts earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
Of all the speeches, and all the quotes, and all the stellar match-ups, perhaps the best tribute to the "Greatest" came from the man himself, who lived life on his own terms unabashedly.