Boxing icon Muhammad Ali died late Friday night at a Phoenix area hospital, according to multiple reports. He was 74 years old.
Ali — born Cassius Clay Jr., he changed his name in 1964 after entering the Nation of Islam — was hospitalized Thursday in Phoenix with a respiratory issue, according to multiple reports. On Friday afternoon, reports surfaced that the boxer was placed on life support and doctors informed his family that “the end is near.”
The legendary fighter out of Louisville, Ky., finished his pro career with a 56-5 record, with 37 knockouts. He engaged in some of the sports most celebrated bouts, most notably with 1975’s “Thrilla in Manila,” Ali’s third scrap with “Smokin’ ” Joe Frazier that ended with Frazier trainer Eddie Futch stopping it in the 14th round.
Ali was a master of words; he was one of the earliest trash talkers in sports and he often crafted braggadocios pre-fight poems that captivated fight fans worldwide. He won the heavyweight title for the first time on Feb. 25, 1964, when he beat Sonny Liston in the first of their two fights.
But his career in the ring had a three-year pause, when he was banned from the sport after his refusal to serve in the U.S. Army, identifying himself as a conscientious objector. He was sentenced to five years in prison for draft evasion, but the decision was appealed and he did not see time behind bars. In his return to the ring, on Oct. 26, 1970, he knocked out Jerry Quarry in the third round. Other notable Ali fights include his October 1974 knockout of previously undefeated champion George Foreman and a September 1978 victory over then-champ Leon Spinks.
The boxer battled more than just opponents in the ring; in 1984, Ali publicly announced he had Parkinson’s disease.
Ali is survived by his wife, Yolanda, brother, Rahman, seven daughters and two sons.