By Carmen Glover
Tributes have been pouring out in memory of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who succumbed to a lengthy, valiant, 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, after being hospitalized on May 30. Ali, who was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, died in a Scottsdale, Arizona, hospital at the age of 74, on Friday, June 3, 2016, surrounded by his family. Ali has been hospitalized numerous times in recent years due to his illness.
In a statement announcing the passing of the legend, family spokesman Bob Gunnell said: “After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali, at the age of 74, the three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening.” Gunnell expressed thanks of the family’s behalf, for everyone’s thoughts, prayers and support, while requesting privacy.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer instructed that “flags at all Metro Government facilities be lowered at half-staff at 10:00 a.m.” In a ceremony held at the city’s Metro Hall on Saturday morning, Fischer said that flags will remain lowered until the boxing icon’s burial. In a statement Fischer said:
“The values of hard work, conviction and compassion that Muhammad Ali developed while growing up in Louisville helped him become a global icon. As a boxer, he became ‘The Greatest,’ though his most lasting victories happened outside the ring. Muhammad leveraged his fame as a platform to promote peace, justice and humanitarian efforts around the world, while always keeping strong ties to his hometown. Today, Muhammad Ali’s fellow Louisvillians join the billions whose lives he touched worldwide in mourning his passing, celebrating his legacy, and committing to continue his fight to spread love and hope.”
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama issued a statement, saying, in part: “Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him…Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.”
George Foreman, 67, who battled Ali in the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle, in expressing his sense of loss via Twitter said, “A part of me slipped away, the greatest piece.” In 1960, Ali won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rome. Several years later, at the young age of 22, he unseated heavyweight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Convention Center. Ali went on to defeat other opponents including Foreman and Joe Frazier during a dazzling career that was punctuated by highs and lows.
Ali, who dominated the world stage during his prime for his boxing prowess, charisma, bold boasts, joined the Nation of Islam and refused to fight in the Vietnam War due to his faith. His principled stand earned him a ban for several years until the Supreme Court upheld his position. Ali, in later years became an engaging humanitarian who was committed to the common good. He was fond of stating the he was “The Greatest,” and popularized phrases such as “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” to describe his boxing style. His legendary boxing career was replete with excitement and catchy phrases such as the “Thrilla in Manila,” and countless others, which can fill volumes.
Ali was married several times and fathered many children. His daughter, Laila, followed his path and became an intimidating boxer as well.
Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom,by President George W. Bush, in 2005. The award is the highest honor that can be given to a U.S. civilian. His Louisville hometown also houses the Muhammad Ali Center, which highlights his life, ideals and legacy. Fans have flocked to the center to pay their respects to an icon, who, for many, will always hold a special place in their hearts.
Ali will be laid to rest next week, in a private ceremony on Thursday, June 9, followed by a public, inter-faith memorial on Friday, June 10, during which his body will be escorted through the city of Louisville in a procession that will go pass the center and travel down the street named after The Champ, so that fans can pay their respects. according to Gunnell.
Former President Bill Clinton, journalist Bryant Gumbel and actor Billy Crystal and former Senator Orrin Hatch, will deliver eulogies. The memorial will be led by a Muslim Iman and streamed live online via themuhammadcenter.org. In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged in honor of the center.–OnPointPress.net––