Muhammad Ali: Bill Clinton will give eulogy at boxing legend’s funeral – as it happened

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Comment from Earth Advocacy News:

Muhammad Ali was larger than life and seemed to carried a spirit of peace with him in his appearances around the world after he retired from boxing. The article below contains some collected reaction from The Guardian.

Muhammad Ali, January 17, 1942-June 3, 2016.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Muhammad Ali: Bill Clinton will give eulogy at boxing legend’s funeral – as it happened” was written by Russell Jackson, Alan Smith , Rob Smyth, Lawrence Ostlere, Chris Johnston and Alan Yuhas, for theguardian.com on Saturday 4th June 2016 21.35 UTC

Summary

We’re going to close our rolling coverage of reaction to the death of Mohammad Ali, aged 74, late Friday.

  • The legendary boxer died of septic shock after several days in the hospital with a severe respiratory illness, his family said through a spokesperson. He did not suffer, they said. Ali’s daughter Hana said that her father’s heart kept beating 30 minutes after his other organs failed, “Our hearts are literally hurting,” she wrote. “But we are so happy daddy is free now.”
  • Ali’s funeral will be held Friday in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, the family said, and be preceded by a public procession. Former president Bill Clinton, Billy Crystan and Bryant Gumbel will deliver eulogies.
  • Barack Obama led tributes to Ali from around the world, saying that Ali’s battle against Parkinson’s “ravaged his body but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes. Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it.”
  • Former opponents also memorialized the late boxer. George Foreman said he found Ali “one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. I got beat up in the jungle. We never had any arguments until we met in the ring that night. I hit him with everything and I had, and all he would say is, ‘That all you got, George?’ What a night. Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and myself were one guy – we lived through each other. A big piece of me died when he passed away, and I call it the greatest piece.”

Yet another historical episode largely forgotten in the sheer scope of Ali’s life: his 1990 trip to Iraq, after the invasion of Kuwait, in which he negotiated the release of 15 American hostages held by Saddam Hussein.

ESPN produced a short documentary in its 30-for-30 series on the remarkable episode, during which Ali visited schools, prayed at a Baghdad mosque and met Hussein. “We hope and pray there is not a war,” he told Iraqi officials. “And with the little authority from the fame that I have I’ll show the real side of Iraq.”

The White House of George HW Bush disapproved of the meeting but Ali managed to bring the Americans back to the US. “God works through people,” Ali told a former hostage. “It’s not me.”

A little more than a month later the US invaded in Operation Desert Storm, in what became the first Iraq war.

And a historical note on the cemetery where Ali will be buried this week in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Cave Hill Cemetery is so named because of the cave from which a spring flowed that helped feed into a creek in the larger Louisville area, during the city’s early years in the mid-19th century. The cemetery is the burial site of Revolutionary war hero George Rogers Clark, the man who designed the original Confederate flag (Nicola Marshall), and two 20th century sculptors: Enid Yandell and Jeptha Barnard Barney Bright IV.

Also interred in Cave Hill is Joshua Fry Speed, Abraham Lincoln’s close friend and law partner. The friends disagreed about slavery: Speed believed it was an issue for states to decide. But he remained Lincoln’s friend through the presidency, and held a memorial in Louisville after his assassination.

Barack Obama has called Lonnie Williams, Ali’s wife, “to offer his family’s deepest condolences for the passing of her husband”, the White House has said in a statement.
Per Deputy Press Secretary Jennifer Friedman:

The President expressed to Lonnie how fortunate he and the First Lady felt to have met Muhammad, and noted that the outpouring of love since his death is a true testament to his remarkable life. He recounted how special it was to have witnessed “The Champ” change the arc of history.

Updated

Another rarely seen side of Ali: the astute film critic. He sat down with late critic Roger Ebert to watch Rocky II in 1979.

“A great movie,” he said. “A big hit. It has all the ingredients. Love, violence, emotion. The excitement never dulled.”

What do you think about the way the fight turned out?

“For the black man to come out superior,” Ali said, “would be against America’s teachings. I have been so great in boxing they had to create an image like Rocky, a white image on the screen, to counteract my image in the ring. America has to have its white images, no matter where it gets them. Jesus, Wonder Woman, Tarzan and Rocky.”

You can read the whole interview/review here, and see what Ali was talking about in the clip below.

In an episode largely forgotten among the many other outsize moments of his life and career, Muhammad Ali once coaxed a suicidal man down from a ninth-story ledge in Los Angeles.

The man had climbed out from a window and was shouting “I’m no good, I’m going to jump.”

“Police, a psychologist and a minister had all but given up,” the CBS anchor said that day in January 1981, “When Mohammad Ali, who happened to be nearby, volunteered to talk to him.”

The report said that Ali, from a nearby window, told the man: “I’m your brother, I want to help you.”

Funeral on Friday in Louisville, Bill Clinton to speak – spokesman

The Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell has been speaking in Scottsdale, Arizona, discussing arrangements for the great boxer’s funeral.

All of Ali’s family members had a day to say their final goodbyes, Gunnell said, adding that it was “a beautiful thing to watch which displayed all that was good about Muhammad Ali”.

“The Champ would have been very proud of his family,” he added.

Ali was hospitalized on Monday night, Gunnell said, in fair condition. That was expected to continue as it had before, leading to improvement, only for it to become clear “in the last 24 hours” that he would not improve. Ali’s official time of death, Gunnell said, was 9.10pm MST on Friday, and the cause of death was septic shock due to unspecified natural causes. He did not suffer.

Before discussing Ali’s death, Gunnell detailed plans for Ali’s funeral, which was planned with Ali’s involvement and will be an interfaith service lead by a Muslim imam.

“Muhammad Ali was truly the people’s champion,” Gunnell said, adding that the celebration will therefore be open to everyone. “Lonnie [Ali’s wife] and the entire family invite everyone to join them for the celebration in Muhammad Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.”

Ali’s body will return to Kentucky from Arizona in 24- to 48-hours time, Gunnell said, with family members accompanying him. The celebration of his life will begin on Thursday with a private family ceremony. The next morning, Friday, the family will gather at the funeral home, where they will be joined by the imam presiding.

There will then be a procession through streets of Louisville, he continued, “to allow anyone who is there from the world to celebrate with him”. Ali’s body will pass by the Muhammad Ali Center and the procession will then travel down the street named after him, Muhammad Ali Boulevard. It will follow the route of the parade that greeted Ali, then Cassius Clay, home from the Rome Olympics in 1960, and end at Cave Hill cemetery for a private interment ceremony.

At 2pm a memorial service will begin. It will be interfaith, directed by an imam but including clerics from a number of religions. The “funeral plans were done years ago by Mr Ali, who discussed them personally”, Gunnell said.

Former senator Orrin Hatch will represent the Mormon faith, Gunnell said, and President Bill Clinton, Bryant Gumbel and Billy Crystal will give eulogies. A private reception will follow at the Muhammed Ali Center.

Updated

“Are you shocked?”

“No. You scared me when you came over.”

“I heard you wanted to arm wrestle. Let’s get going.”

Ali pranking school kids in Greenwich Village in 1974.

Updated

Abdul-Jabbar was hardly the only instantly recognizable celebrity who crossed Ali’s path, whether in the worlds of sports, politics or entertainment.

Eg with Wilt Chamberlain and Fidel Castro …

… and four of the greatest basketball players who ever lived.

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has written a Facebook tribute to his “friend and mentor” Muhammad Ali: “I may be 7’2’’ but I never felt taller than when standing in his shadow.”

During my more than 50 years in the public eye, I have met hundreds of renowned celebrities, artists, athletes, and world leaders. But only a handful embodied the self-sacrificing and heroic qualities that defined my friend and mentor, Muhammad Ali.

A master of self-promotion, he declared early in his boxing career, I am the greatest! This kind of boasting enraged many people, just as he’d hoped, ensuring a large audience that just wanted to see this upstart boy taught a lesson. But it was Muhammad who taught the lesson because, as he once said, It’s not bragging if you can back it up. And back it up, he did. Again and again. And not just in the ring.

Part of Muhammad’s greatness was his ability to be different things to different people. To sports fans he was an unparalleled champion of the world, faster and smarter than any heavyweight before. To athletes, he was a model of physical perfection and shrewd business acumen.

To the anti-establishment youth of the 1960s, he was a defiant voice against the Vietnam War and the draft. To the Muslim community, he was a pious pioneer testing America’s purported religious tolerance.

To the African-American community, he was a black man who faced overwhelming bigotry the way he faced every opponent in the ring: fearlessly.

At a time when blacks who spoke up about injustice were labeled uppity and often arrested under one pretext or another, Muhammad willingly sacrificed the best years of his career to stand tall and fight for what he believed was right. In doing so, he made all Americans, black and white, stand taller. I may be 7’2” but I never felt taller than when standing in his shadow.

Today we bow our heads at the loss of a man who did so much for America. Tomorrow we will raise our heads again remembering that his bravery, his outspokenness, and his sacrifice for the sake of his community and country lives on in the best part of each of us.

Actor Michael J Fox, diagnosed with Parkinson’s seven years after Ali learned he had the condition, has tweeted a tribute to the Greatest.

Ali’s daughter: his heart kept beating after organs failed

Hana Ali, daughter of the legendary boxer, has posted a brief statement online.

“Our hearts are literally hurting,” she writes. “But we are so happy daddy is free now.”

We all tried to stay strong and whispered in his ear, “You can go now. We will be okay. We love you. Thank you. You can go back to God now.”

All of us were around him hugging and kissing him and holding his hands, chanting the Islamic prayer. All of his organs failed but his HEART wouldn’t stop bearing. For 30 minutes … his heart just keep beating. No one had ever seen anything like it. A true testament to the strength of his Spirit and Will!

Thank you all for your love and support!

The family is due to deliver a statement at 3pm ET today.

Ali cuddling his daughters Laila, (L )and Hana (R) at a Hotel in London.
Ali with his daughters Laila, (L )and Hana (R) at a Hotel in London. Photograph: Action Images/Reuters

Former president George W Bush has also released a statement honoring Ali. It reads:

Laura and I are saddened by the death of Muhammad Ali, The Greatest of All Time. I gave Ali the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and wondered aloud how he stayed so pretty throughout so many fights.

“It probably had to do with his beautiful soul. He was a fierce fighter adn he’s a man of peace, just like Odessa and Cassius Clay Sr believed their son could be.”

Muhammad Ali was an iconic and historic figure who thrilled entertained, influenced and inspired millions. Americans will always be proud to have been in his corner and called him one of our own.

Laura and I send our heartfelt condolences to Muhammad Ali’s family and friends.

Bush awarding Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Washington.
Bush awarding Ali with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Washington. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The Muhammad Ali Center has invited mourners to come to the center in Louisville, Kentucky, and announced its plan for the weekend.

“On behalf everyone associated with the Muhammad Ali Center and everyone in the Louisville community who loved Muhammad, we want to express our deepest sympathies to his wife, Lonnie, and Muhammad’s entire family,” President Donald Lassere said in a statement.

“His wife, Lonnie once said, that Muhammad belongs to the world. He was the People’s Champion, one of the most recognized and beloved individuals on the face of the earth, co-founder of the Muhammad Ali Center, and an inspiration to all. He will be remembered for his love for all people, his athleticism, humanitarian deeds, social justice, and perhaps mostly … his courage in and outside of the ring.

The Muhammad Ali Center was created to help preserve and share the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali. If you would like to express your condolences, your personal stories, or to help celebrate Muhammad’s life, please come to the Ali Center today.”

Today at the center:

  • Open today until 5pm
  • Open tomorrow 10am until 5pm
  • Visitors share condolences at the Center’s site or Facebook online
  • At 3pm ET today, Muhammad’s family will make a statement about arrangements

Ali’s extraordinary quickness, immortalized online and including 21 dodged punches in 10 seconds.

Another blast from the past – this time penned by the then Cassius Clay himself for Sports Illustrated in 1964.

Cassius Clay is a boxer who can throw the jive better than anybody you will probably ever meet anywhere. And right there is why I will meet Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world next week in Miami Beach. And jive is the reason also why they took my picture looking at million in cold cash. That’s how much money my fists and my mouth will have earned by the time my fight with Liston is over. Think about that. A southern colored boy has made million just as he turns 22. I don’t think it’s bragging to say I’m something a little special.”

A Muhammad Ali robe on display at an exhibition at the O2 arena in London.
A Muhammad Ali robe on display at an exhibition at the O2 arena in London. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

Thousands of people have been remembering the boxer at the O2 arena in east London, where an exhibition about Ali’s life and career is being staged. Ali was unable to attend the late February launch of the I Am the Greatest exhibition, which features his most famous TV interviews along with items such as the “fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee” robe and the split gloves he used to defeat British champ Henry Cooper at 1963 Wembley stadium in 1963.

Cooper felled the then Cassius Clay in the fourth round with his trademark left hook and appeared on the verge of victory, but Ali’s trainer, Angelo Dundee, argued that one of Ali’s gloves was torn and required replacement. The referee refused, but their argument bought Ali several extra seconds to recover. He then won a technical knockout of Cooper by opening a gash in the lighter, slower fighter’s forehead.

Cooper lost to Ali again in London in 1966 and died in 2011. Ali later recalled how Cooper’s left hook that felled him was so hard, “my ancestors in Africa felt it”.

Posters at the I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali exhibition at the O2 arena.
Posters at the I Am The Greatest, Muhammad Ali exhibition at the O2 arena. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

Viewers in the UK have the chance to relive the highlights of Ali’s career at 930pm on Saturday when BBC1 broadcasts the documentary Muhammad Ali: The Greatest.

Haye: Ali showed ‘anything’s achievable’

David Haye.
David Haye. Photograph: Steve Paston/PA

David Haye, the former two-weight British world champion, said he would not have taken up boxing if it wasn’t for Muhammad Ali – and even named his eldest son, Cassius Haye, after him.

“I wanted to have what Muhammad Ali had, he was the pinnacle of what a boxer could be. I came from humble beginnings as he did, and he showed that hard work, focus, dedicating your life to something, anything’s achievable,” he told the BBC.

Haye said that when faced Nikolai Valuev in 2009 in a world championship fight, he adopted Ali’s tactics of moving quickly and avoiding punches to defeat his 7ft opponent and win the title Ali once heldHJ, an achievement he called a “lifelong ambition”.

Haye said he admired Ali for “putting his life on the line” for his political beliefs – particularly his stance on the Vietnam war – and for “changing boxing” with his ringside showmanship.

Paroo Streich holds a shirt of boxing legend Muhammad Ali as she pays her respects at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
Paroo Streich holds a shirt of boxing legend Muhammad Ali as she pays her respects at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

More tributes for the boxer have been coming in.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said:

Mr Ali was far more than a legendary boxer; he was a world champion for equality and peace. With an incomparable combination of principle, charm, wit and grace, he fought for a better world and used his platform to help lift up humanity.”

Rev Jesse Jackson, a longtime friend, said:

He sacrificed the heart of his career and money and glory for his religious beliefs about a war he thought unnecessary and unjust. His memory and legacy lingers on until eternity. He scarified, the nation benefited. He was a champion in the ring, but, more than that, a hero beyond the ring. When champions win, people carry them off the field on their shoulders. When heroes win, people ride on their shoulders. We rode on Muhammad Ali’s shoulders.”

There is a fascinating piece from the Hollywood bible, Variety, about the publication’s coverage of Muhammad Ali. His first mention came in the 1 December, 1961 edition, but Ali did not make it to page one until 30 January, 1963. That edition featured a dispatch from Pittsburgh on “the colorful young heavyweight” and his knockout of Charlie Powell.

Variety declared: “Never in the history of the city has a public figure dominated the news media as Brassius Cassius.” Ali made the rounds of local TV and public events and caused a stir simply by walking down the street. The story features generous examples of Ali’s verse including this gem: “If I say a mosquito can pull a plow/Just hitch him up and don’t ask how.”

But the highlight without a doubt is:

Variety even gave a good review to Ali’s one and only comedy album, I Am the Greatest, released by Columbia Records in 1963, months before he claimed his first heavyweight championship title.

Flags lowered in Louisville

Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher. Photograph: Timothy D. Easley/AP

Flags in Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali’s hometown, have been lowered to half mast following a short ceremony led by the city’s mayor, during which he warmly remembered the former heavyweight champion’s childhood in the city.

“Muhammad Ali belongs to the world but he only has one hometown,” said Mayor Greg Fischer, as a small crowd applauded. “The Louisville Lip spoke to everyone, but we heard him in a way that no-one else could, as our brother, our uncle and our inspiration.”

The Mayor’s office said flags will remain at half mast until Ali is laid to rest in the city, which is home to the Muhammad Ali Center, a museum and cultural facility dedicated to his legacy and where he made his last formal appearance in October 2015.

Members of the Louisville Metro Police Color Guard lower the flags at Louisville city hall.
Members of the Louisville Metro Police Color Guard lower the flags at Louisville city hall. Photograph: Timothy D. Easley/AP

Fischer paid tribute to the local institutions that helped forge Ali’s early identity, reminding the crowd Ali had graduated from Louisville central high school in 1960 and was born in the local hospital on 17 January 1942.

“Imagine that day, that little boy, eyes wide open looking around the room at the old Louisville general hospital, not knowing the life that awaited him. The life he would make. The world he would shake up, and the people he would inspire.”

Fischer also recalled an anecdote from Ali’s early adolescence when his red bicycle was stolen in front of a downtown gym. “[He] told police officer Joe Martin that he wanted to ‘whoop’ whoever took it. And Martin said: ‘you better learn to box first’”.

As three Louisville metro police officers lowered the stars and stripes outside the Mayor’s office, a young boy in the crowd could be seen saluting.

Updated

Muhammad Ali with Nelson Mandela at a dinner in New York in 2005.
Muhammad Ali with Nelson Mandela at a dinner in New York in 2005. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Sello Hatang, head of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, has issued a statement following Muhammad Ali’s death:

Nelson Mandela, a boxing enthusiast most of his life, acknowledged Ali as his boxing hero. Madiba had great respect for his legacy and spoke with admiration of Ali’s achievements.”

A photograph of Ali and Mandela together sat next to the former president’s desk at his foundation, Hatang said, and Mandela’s favourite book at the office in his later years was an autographed copy of the Ali biography Greatest of All Time.

The statement included a comment Mandela made at an event in Washington DC in 1990: “There is one regret I have had throughout my life: that I never became the boxing heavyweight champion of the world.”

Obama pays tribute

US president Barack Obama has paid tribute to Muhammad Ali in a heartfelt statement:

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, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.

In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him – the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston.

I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was – still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic gold medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of South East Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.”

Read more here.

James Lawton has written this lovely piece on Ali’s enduring spirit in the face of physical decline:

We are mourning not just the passing of the greatest fighter in history but a presence in our lives which, however haltingly, never ceased to speak of the possibilities of the human spirit.

Anyone who happened to be around him in the climactic phase of his career had to be aware of the dangers that he was courting. But almost to the end, on a chilly night in the Nevada desert in 1980 when he was pounded to a cruel defeat by his former sparring partner Larry Holmes, there was a belief, however irrational, that somehow he would find a way to beat the attrition of the years. He was, after all, a miracle of his species.

Muhammad Ali dead at 74 – summary

  • The world is mourning the death of boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, who has died aged 74 after being admitted to a hospital in Pheonix on Thursday. Ali had suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome since 1984. His condition was complicated by a respiratory illness. An announcement over funeral arrangements will be made late on Saturday. Ali will be buried in Louisville, according to local media.
  • President Obama released a statement with his wife Michelle Obama, saying: “Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it.” Bill Clinton described Ali’s talent as “a blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again.”
  • The world of boxing has paid tribute. His great rival George Foreman put it beautifully: “You know what, I found Muhammad Ali to be one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. I got beat up in the jungle. We never had any arguments until we met in the ring that night. I hit him with everything and I had, and all he would say is, ‘That all you got, George?’ What a night. Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and myself were one guy – we lived through each other. A big piece of me died when he passed away, and I call it the greatest piece.”
  • Frank Bruno said Ali was an “inspiration, mentor, my friend, an Earthly god of humanity, simply the greatest”. Yorkshireman Richard Dunn, who lost to Ali in 1976, said: “When we’ve long gone they’ll still be talking about him and it’ll be worthwhile as well.”
  • Carl Froch paid tribute, saying “generations later people are still watching his fights and are still mesmerised by the way he worked,” and Prince Naseem added: “He deserves to be put on a platform which couldn’t be built by human hands.” Amir Khan said: “No fighter or sportsman will ever reach the level of Ali, whose name will continue to echo through the ages.”
  • Other sporting icons have paid tribute, including his friend Pele: “The sporting universe has just suffered a big loss. Muhammad Ali was my friend, my idol, my hero. The sadness is overwhelming.” Tiger Woods posted on Twitter: “You’ll always be The Greatest for more than just what you did in the ring.” Sachin Tendulkar said: “My hero since childhood. I always had a wish to meet you some day but now it will never happen. RIP The Greatest.”
  • Interviewer Michael Parkinson said: “He was the most extraordinary man I’ve ever met, and I’ve met a few. His charisma was palpable.”

The former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan:

He was 6ft 3in and 18 stone and he was walking round the ring like he was floating on air. He brought style and artistry to the game.

What he did was magnificent. He offered himself up for the African-American people to make a difference. He had courage in the ring and he had courage outside of it. For a number of reasons he is the greatest boxer of all time, arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time, and certainly one of the greatest individuals that there’s ever been.

As a person he was just lovely. You knew that he was gorgeous man, a really lovely man from the inside out. I loved him as a human being, loved him as a sportsman.

Readers’ tributes

Nasim Chowdhury: “Muhammad Ali was exactly my father’s age so I missed his legendary sporting achievements, but I relived them through VHS video cassettes and copious reading. I also got to meet my hero in person at a shopping centre in London in the autumn of 1993 where he signed my copy of Thomas Hauser’s Muhammad Ali, His Life and Times. I found him to be just as handsome and noble in real life as he was on TV; perhaps even more so.

“The greatest thing about him for me though was not his sporting achievements as such, but how he used all the skills and talents he had – oral, physical, looks – to propagate his faith, and how beautifully he showed it as one of justice, dignity and equality.

“Being a young, black, American Muslim who was one of the greatest sportsmen (if not the greatest) of all time was a very potent combination, especially at a time when injustice and turmoil was at its height. It took a very brave soul to stand up to this and put a glittering career and reputation at stake, and yet he did it unflinchingly.

“Quite simply, he was the very best example of Islam in practice for millions of young Muslims all over the world. A true citizen of the world and a universal example. May he rest in peace.”

Ajay Patta: “That thing about John Lennon saying they were more famous than Jesus? Well, growing up in India in the 70s, we knew of Ali. Didn’t know anything about the Beatles. Make of that what you will. But I bet that can be safely applied to many of us from the subcontinent. I followed his career on the sports pages. Probably my first sporting hero.”

Updated

There are many tributes to Ali from the world of football, another illustration if it was needed of just how his influence spread above and beyond boxing. Here are a few from the Premier League:

Updated

One of basketball’s greatest, LeBron James, on Muhammad Ali:

“The reason why he’s the GOAT [greatest of all time] is not because of what he did in the ring, which was unbelievable. It’s what he did outside of the ring, what he believed in, what he stood for, along with Jim Brown and Oscar Robertson, Lew Alcindor – obviously who became Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] – Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson. Those guys stood for something. He’s part of the reason why African-Americans today can do what we do in the sports world. We’re free. They allow us to have access to anything we want. It’s because of what they stood for, and Muhammad Ali was definitely the pioneer for that.

“People forget what you did as a professional. People forget the championships and all the other things you were able to accomplish. But they will never forget how you made them feel. That’s a Maya Angelou quote, but I’ll transcend that into what Muhammad Ali was able to do.”

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali stands over the British challenger Richard Dunn after knocking out his opponent in the fifth round of their fight in Munich in May 1976. Photograph: Dpa Files/EPA

Yorkshireman Richard Dunn, who lost to Ali in Hamburg when challenging for his WBA and WBC titles in May 1976, told Sky Sports News:

“I think his legacy will last forever. When we’ve long gone they’ll still be talking about him and it’ll be worthwhile as well. He was such a fantastic champion. (If young boxers) watch his fights and see what a great athlete he was and they want to be the same then it’s there for them. He’s a good example. He was a hell of a fighter.”

Other sporting icons have paid tribute. Pele said: “The sporting universe has just suffered a big loss. Muhammad Ali was my friend, my idol, my hero. We spent many moments together and always kept a good connection throughout the years. The sadness is overwhelming. I wish him peace with God. And I send love and strength to his family.”

And Tiger Woods posted on Twitter: “You’ll always be The Greatest for more than just what you did in the ring. A champion to so many people in so many ways.”

From one showman to another, Yorkshire’s former featherweight world champion Prince Naseem has paid this tribute to Ali:

I studied Ali growing up, for all of us in the gym there was only one focus: Ali was the only person to copy.

My thoughts and my prayers go out to his family. Muhammad Ali will never be forgotten. He was everything. He was bigger than the sport. He deserves to be put on a platform which couldn’t be built by human hands. There will never, ever be another Muhammad Ali.

I love the guy, I’ve got more pictures with Ali that with my own father. There was one video I always use to watch called a.k.a. Cassius Clay, I watched him religiously every day for 15 years. That’s what made me want to be a showman, be a champion the way that I was, speak the way that I did. It all goes back to Muhammad Ali.

a.k.a. Cassius Clay

“Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it”

President Obama and the first lady Michelle Obama have released a statement on the death of Muhammad Ali:

Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d “handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.”

… In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him – the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston. I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was – still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.

“I am America,” he once declared. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”

That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age – not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes – maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.

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.

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In 2010 Barack Obama wrote this piece for USA Today about what Muhammad Ali meant to him:

It was this quality of Ali’s that I have always admired the most: his unique ability to summon extraordinary strength and courage in the face of adversity, to navigate the storm and never lose his way.

This is the quality I’m reminded of when I look at the iconic photo I’ve had hanging on my wall of the young fighter standing over Sonny Liston. And in the end, it was this quality that would come to define not just Ali the boxer but Ali the man — the Ali I know who made his most lasting contribution as his physical powers ebbed, becoming a force for reconciliation and peace around the world.

And the current IBF welterweight world champion, Kell Brook:

I’ve watched everything he’s ever done. He’s changed boxing, he took it to a completely different level, from a young brash Cassius Clay who shook up the world. The guy was way bigger than boxing. He’s touched many people over the world. He just wanted to give to everyone.

He just wanted to win. Maybe the people around him at the last part of his career should have told him to stop way before he did. In his mind he just thinks he’s the greatest – which he is – but sometimes the reflexes go and the young hungry fighters are coming though.

There will never be anybody like him.

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Some more reaction from the boxing world coming in. Here’s four-time super-middleweight world champion Carl Froch talking on Sky Sports:

In his prime he was just a very skilful, awkward, tricky, elusive type of fighter and that’s how I will remember him – as one of the greatest. You’ve got to love the way he backed up what he said. He transcended our sport globally. Generations later people are still watching his fights and are still mesmerised by the way he worked. He was one of the greatest in my opinion. I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade but I’m a massive Mike Tyson fan, but you can easily say that Ali is up there with the top two or three of all time.

“A blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again”

The former US president Bill Clinton has paid tribute:

Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of Muhammad Ali. From the day he claimed the Olympic gold medal in 1960, boxing fans across the world knew they were seeing a blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again. We watched him grow from the brash self-confidence of youth and success into a manhood full of religious and political convictions that led him to make tough choices and live with the consequences. Along the way we saw him courageous in the ring, inspiring to the young, compassionate to those in need, and strong and good-humored in bearing the burden of his own health challenges.

I was honored to award him the Presidential Citizens Medal at the White House, to watch him light the Olympic flame, and to forge a friendship with a man who, through triumph and trials, became even greater than his legend. Our hearts go out to Lonnie, his children, and his entire family.

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Muhammad Ali’s greatest biographer, Thomas Hauser, has written this wonderful piece for the Guardian reflecting on getting to know the deeply spiritual and intelligent boxer:

Ali was tired. He’d been awake since 5am, when he’d risen to pray and read from the Qur’an. His voice, already weak from the ravages of Parkinson’s Syndrome, was flagging. The facial “mask” which accompanied his medical condition was more pronounced than usual.

Most of the people in line were joyful. But one of them, a middle-aged woman with a kind face, wasn’t. Muhammad’s condition grieved her. As she approached him, she burst into tears.

Ali leaned over, kissed her on the cheek, and told her, “Don’t feel bad. God has blessed me. I’ve had a good life, and it’s still good. I’m having fun now.”

The woman walked away smiling.

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Here’s a lovely memory of meeting Ali, emailed by Shubha Nath:

Just though to drop you this as I told someone this morning and they said it was very poignant so I thought I would share a beautiful memory with others.

I was off to do some Charity work this morning when I went to my son’s bedroom to give him some money; as I was leaving my son said “mum Mohammad Ali died of Parkinson’s and he had respiratory problems.” He then said “he was 74”.

I met Muhammad Ali when I was 15 in a place called Smethwick in Birmingham; he was visiting a factory which belonged to a friend of ours. I will never forget the room was completely packed out and there were many photographers. My father’s face caught Mohammad Ali’s eye and he looked at me gave a big wide beautiful smile and said “is you father always this ugly?”

I laughed and replied yes always! Of course he was teasing; my father was a very handsome man… same round face as Muhammad Ali.

In November 2015 I lost my father to Parkinson’s and respiratory problems. He was the same age as Muhammad Ali when he died; 74.

I think my sister still has photographs of when Muhammad Ali picked her up and was kissing her; she was 5 months old. Another great man; lost to a deadly evil disease.

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It’s time for me to hand over to Lawrence Ostlere. Thanks for your company and tributes.

"He was the most extraordinary man I’ve ever met, and I’ve met a few"

Michael Parkinson has paid tribute on Sky Sports News.

The first time I met him, he walked across the studio floor towards me, and first of all I was struck by the grace and elegance of his movement, and the size of him. Then I became obsessed by his hands – he had the longest fingers of a boxer I’d seen. They were the fingers of a concert pianist rather than a pugilist.

He was the most extraordinary man I’ve ever met, and I’ve met a few. He didn’t have any reservations about behaviour, and what he should or should not say. So what you got was raw: he could be funny, nasty, aggressive. He was a package you could not predict.

The nicest thing that’s ever happened to me in television was when his family came over with the Ali exhibition earlier this year. We had a call from them saying that he loved to watch the Parkinson interviews on YouTube. He would point and say, ‘Watch this, I get him here’, and all that. They asked if we could put together a compilation on disc to save him going on YouTube. Those interviews defined my career in many ways.

His charisma was palpable. You were sitting with a guy who was box-office. He could sell tickets – and sell himself – better than anybody else I’ve ever met. And he couldn’t stop talking. It was never an easy ride with him, but my word it was a fantastic experience.

"Inspiration, mentor, my friend"

Here’s some more reaction from around the world to the news that Muhammad Ali has died aged 74.

Amir Khan “No fighter or sportsman will ever reach the level of Muhammad Ali, whose name will continue to echo through the ages. Inspiring, charismatic, a true legend – Ali will never be forgotten. Having the chance to meet the great man will be a memory and privilege I will always hold dear.”

Nicola Adams “Prayers go out to boxing’s greatest of all time and an inspiration to me and so many people.”

Joe Calzaghe “People loved him, he was someone completely different, backed it up in the ring and everybody wanted to tune in and watch him fight. He was a superstar. There’ll never be another Muhammad Ali, in 1,000 years’ time people will look back and say he was the greatest. He was my inspiration, I tried to copy some of his moves and it is a truly sad day. But I’m proud that my sport of boxing has probably the greatest all-round sportsman of all time.”

Frank Bruno “Inspiration, mentor, my friend, an Earthly god of humanity, simply the greatest.”

You’ll have seen this before, but it never fails to facilitate happiness, not even on the 478th viewing

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David Beckham has posted this picture and tribute on Instagram.

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A good point from David Haye on Sky Sports News

The Ali era was the best ever in heavyweight boxing. They went 15 rounds, the gloves didn’t have as much padding. It was much tougher physically.

Some more of your tributes

Howard White “Muhammad stayed at my house for several days in 1992 in Oxford. What everyone is missing is what Ali was really about – and that was his religion. He told me that boxing was Allah’s way of letting him spread the word and that boxing was just a means to an end.”

Shahrouz Hafez “I’m 25, so I missed witnessing the majestic fights of Ali’s life — from the ring, to the courtroom, to the social arena. But I grew up hearing of the man, of my family sitting around, late into the night, to watch him fight. When I emigrated to Canada as a seven-year-old, it was through Muhammad Ali’s life that I found courage and confidence. Through biographies of the man and the example of his life, I learnt what it meant to be a courageous, to stand for principles, and to do what’s right. “He was one of my first heroes but as I aged he became THE hero. I sit here, at 3am pacific time and I can’t help shedding a tear. The last of the titans has fallen today, a man like no other, and one that the world was lucky to have. May he rest in peace and I’m certain his memory will live on forever!”

Kais Uddin “They always said he was thick. They also despised and tried to belittle him. He was hated for saying what he believed and only after becoming sick with Parkinson’s Disease did they pay grudging acknowledgment . By then they thought he was harmless and the awards came two a penny. If they could have a little of his courage, humanity and humility, we would be in a better place.”

Sohail Ramzan Rana “Ali’s status as the greatest boxer and human being is unquestionable. Here in Pakistan, there were millions of villagers in the sixties and seventies who only knew one man outside their own country; it was Ali. I remember watching his fight with Larry Holmes along with around 500 village men on a small black-and-white TV. Nobody believed that he lost; they believed the referee cheated him. Such was Ali’s invincibility in their eyes.”

George Foreman’s tribute

This is lovely: George Foreman on Radio 4 this morning talking about Muhammad Ali.

You know what, I found Muhammad Ali to be one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. I got beat up in the jungle. We never had any arguments until we met in the ring that night. I hit him with everything and I had, and all he would say is, ‘That all you got, George?’ What a night. Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and myself were one guy – we lived through each other. A big piece of me died when he passed away, and I call it the greatest piece.

In case you missed it, this is a glorious tribute from Kevin Mitchell

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Mo Farah’s tribute

This has just dropped in my inbox from our athletics correspondent (and boxing expert) Sean Ingle:

London 2012 Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion Mo Farah, who is running in the 3,000m in Birmingham tomorrow, has just paid tribute to Muhammad Ali.

“It’s a sad day for all sports, not just for boxing. He was an icon. Someone I grew up watching. He was one of my heroes. Last night I heard the news [he was very ill] just before I went to bed and my then when I woke up my heart just sank. My respects go to his family. We have lost a legend.

Muhammad Ali was a character. It was just amazing what he did. He made boxing look easy. The way he thought of life, he stood up for what he believed. He was a jokey, funny and some of the quotes of his are still used too. And seeing this guy, growing up, I get emotional thinking about him now, and my support goes to his family and friends. We will miss him. Everyone will miss him.

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“I’m so mean I make medicine sick”

Muhammad Ali was surely the most quotable sportsman of all. Here are some of his most memorable lines.

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Some more readers’ tributes from around the world

Mohammed Wajid Akhter: Muhammad Ali meant something special to everyone, but to Muslims he was an incredibly inspirational figure. You have to understand that for a once great civilization, Muslims have precious few public figures that represent the best of what we used to be and not where we are right now. All across the Muslim world, Ali stood out as an example of someone who was comfortable in his own skin and the world was comfortable with him too. Truly an example that will be missed.

Chris de Broglio: My father along with Dennis Brutus was a founding member of Sanroc, the South African non racial Olympic committee. When Ali was set to fight in South Africa Sanroc lobbied the fight organisers and even Ali’s management but to no avail. When they found out Ali was staying in London they sent a delegation to see him at his Park Lane hotel room, uninvited. He welcomed them and over tea they discussed South Africa and apartheid. At the end of the meeting Ali offered his support and vowed never to fight in South Africa – he turned down a lot of money to follow his principles.

Omar Shennib: I am so sad to learn that Muhammad Ali passed away. I still have fond memories waking up in the early hours of the morning as a young kid to watch Ali’s fights in Kinshasa and Manilla. I spent my childhood in Tripoli Libya following his great bouts, watching him on my small TV in black and white. He was the first international sports hero of mine. I thought I was a boxing fan, but quickly realised it was Muhammad Ali’s charisma and courage that drew me to the sport. May he rest in peace.

Muhammad Ali dead at 74 – a summary

  • The world is mourning the death of boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, who has died aged 74 after being admitted to a hospital in Pheonix on Thursday. Ali had suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome since 1984. His condition was complicated by a respiratory illness.
  • In Louisville, the mayor will appear at Metro Hall 10am EDT to lower flags to half-staff – they will remain in that state until Ali is laid to rest. Mourners are encouraged to meet at the Hall.
  • An announcement over funeral arrangements will be made late on Saturday. Ali will be buried in Louisville, according to local media.
  • Messages from around sport have continued to pour in – from the footballer Yaya Touré to the NBA commissioner Adam Silver – and US presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have also paid tribute.

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Aside from aiding some of the best sports writing ever, Ali heavily influenced all facets of popular culture: from TV, to cinema to music. Some good, some bad but I’m sure we all have our personal favourites.

The Hours – Ali in the Jungle is one highlight, especially for the way David Frost’s iconic “most joyous scene” commentary comes in towards the end.

It is difficult to bring to mind another sportsman that has helped produce such a deep vault of amazing writing. From the McIlvanney pieces below, to Mailer, to Plimpton and then this from Sports Illustrated by Mark Kram on the Thrilla in Manila.

The maddest of existentialists, one of the great surrealists of our time, the king of all he sees, Ali had never before appeared so vulnerable and fragile, so pitiably unmajestic, so far from the universe he claims as his alone.

This is another nice tribute, from the president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, especially the bit about rights strikingly missing in some of the world’s most prosperous nations.

Many will remember the wit, grace and beauty he brought to boxing and some will recall his visits to Ireland. All over the world people also flocked to hear him offer his view on the achievement of democracy and particularly equal rights when they were so strikingly missing in some of the richest countries of the world. He brought his message of freedom and respect for people of all races to all the continents of the world.

As a sportsman and humanitarian, and as someone who struggled for a very long time with one of the most debilitating illnesses, he offered courage in the face of great difficulties. He was intent on going on communicating right to the very end.

Updated

Yaya Touré and Ali’s impact in Africa

Some of your readers’ tributes

Richard Houghton, via email: “We had a greyhound we named after the great man. Ali (the dog) made it to the Greyhound Derby final, which in those days was televised on the BBC, and Harry Carpenter told the nation how Ali (the dog) was named because he was born at the same time as the boxer was in the ring winning another fight.”

Martyn Cox, via same: “The quote that has always been embedded in my mind is ‘the will must be greater than the skill’ – a quote to live by.”

And Norman Keane: “Being born in 1963, Ali has been ever present in my life. My parents, Jamaican immigrants to the UK loved him. It was the only thing they really agreed on, that Ali was the greatest. We watched all of his great fights together as a family. He inspired me to be the best that I could be. To never give in and to never back down in the face of racism. Unlike today’s superstar athletes, Ali was accessible to the people. He loved people and offered to serve. He was still an athlete, and often behaved as sportsmen do, but he had a greatness that no one else has ever had in that he connected with ordinary people wherever they came from.

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McIlvanney’s two hour audience in the jungle

Another wonderful McIlvanney piece from the Guardian archive: after the Rumble in the Jungle, he went to Ali’s villa and was granted a two-hour audience with the champ.

All those writers who said I was washed up, all those people who thought I had nothin’ left to offer but my mouth, all them that been against me from the start and waitin’ for me to get the biggest beatin’ of all times. They thought big bad George Foreman, the baddest man alive, could do it for them but they know better now.

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This is lovely. Lawrence Montgomery, in an interview with the Courier Journal, recalls how his next door neighbour Cassius Clay would jab his hands. “He told me, ‘Lawrence, I am going to be the heavyweight champion of the world’. I said: ‘You must be losing your mind.’ He said: ‘Just you wait and see.’”

“He would put on his boxing outfit and run to Chickasaw Park and back before school. Then he wouldn’t get on the bus to school – he would run beside it. He ran every place. Every time you saw him, he was just running.

Montgomery also hired a teenage Clay to babysit his children. “I didn’t have to pay him. He just wanted boloney sandwiches, I made sure I had plenty in the refrigerator.”

There are plenty more anecdotes about the young Clay from Louisville residents here.

Louisville’s plans to remember Ali

In Louisville, mourners are welcome to a ceremony at Metro Hall where the mayor, Greg Fischer, will lower flags to half-mast at 10am EDT. “The values of hard work, conviction and compassion that Muhammad Ali developed while growing up in Louisville helped him become a global icon.” Fischer said.

The Courier Journal report that those flags will remain at half-staff until Ali is laid to rest, and funeral arrangements will be announced later on Saturday. His burial, the newspaper says, will take place in Louisville.

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Every personal tribute carries the same weight, so feel free to email or tweet your own memories of Ali.

This is from Andy Goodwin, via email: “Ali’s spirt helped me through the darkest periods of my life and I am sure there are many like me. He’s left us but that spirt will always remain. Muhammad: the underdog’s champion.”

The Democrat nomination hopeful Bernie Sanders says: “Muhammad Ali was the greatest, not only an extraordinary athlete but a man of great courage and humanity.”

And the Republican Donald Trump has weighed in: “Muhammad Ali is dead at 74! A truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all!” It would be too easy to score cheap political points here by contrasting with various other Trump tweets, so for the best that we leave it there.

‘I’m so mean I make medicine sick’

The Louisville lip’s most withering putdowns: from Liston to Frazier and Foreman

Ronnie Nathanielsz, the commentator assigned by the Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos to act as government liaison to Ali for Thrilla in Manila, has said: “We lost a hero, a peacemaker and a truly charismatic human being.”

Sean Ingle has compiled 20 of Ali’s greatest moments – featuring the 1975 fight here, but do also take time to read the unparalleled Hugh McIlvanney’s report from the time.

What we felt was awe at the spectacle of extraordinary men setting new limits for themselves, pushing back the boundaries of their courage, their physical and psychological capacity.

Hi. It puts Ali’s legendary status – a phrase that is used all too much but in this particular case does not quite seem enough – into context that heads of other sports have been quick to release tributes. The NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, makes a good point at the end of his message: “Ali’s legacy lives on in every athlete who takes a stand for what he or she believes.” And that will continue for generations.

That’s it’ from me (Russell Jackson) but Alan Smith will be joining you now as tributes continue to flow for Muhammad Ali, who has died today at the age of 74. I’ll leave you with this appropriately striking photograph of Ali preparing to take on Richard Dunn in Munich, back in May of 1976.

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali training ahead of his 1976 heavyweight fight against British Richard Dunn at the Olympiahalle in Munich, Germany. Photograph: Istvan Bajzat/EPA

English cricketer and professional wag Phil Tufnell has weighed in now, calling Ali the sports personality of the century in his Twitter tribute.

From the vault: when Ali refused to go to war

Another fascinating read from the Guardian archives, this one from 1967: ‘Ali refuses to fight in Vietnam war.’

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“Clough I’ve had enough!” Here’s another great clip: Ali giving legendary football manager Brian Clough a verbal sparring session.

Muhammad Ali vs Brian Clough.

Another worthwhile summary of all the reactions so far as the world stops to pay its respects to boxing’s greatest hero:

From the archive: this is quite fascinating, because it gives you a look at exactly what the Guardian made of Muhammad Ali over the years, in real time.

When a child asked Ali what he’d do with his life when he retired.

If you haven’t seen it yet, please do check out our video obituary to The Greatest.

Muhammad Ali: ‘He had a personality that transcended his sport’

This tribute post from the San Francisco Giants has us thinking: would any human being have patiently posed for as many photographs as Muhammad Ali did in his life? Everyone who ever met him seems to have been given the opportunity.

A statement from the WWE on Ali’s passing

“WWE is saddened to learn that two-time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali passed away at age 74 on June 3, 2016,” it starts, before detailing Ali’s perhaps lesser known links to wrestling.
“Ali also made history for his historic boxer vs. wrestler match against WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki in Tokyo on June 26, 1976. The fight is regarded as a precursor to modern mixed martial arts. In 1985, Ali made his mark in WWE history when he was one of the special guest referees for the main event of the first WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden. The bout featured WWE Champion Hulk Hogan and pop culture icon Mr. T against “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. During the contest, Ali climbed up onto the ring apron and took a swing at Piper.”
“WWE extends its condolences to Ali’s family, friends and fans.”

See below as Ali goes toe-to-toe with ‘Gorilla Monsoon’ in 1976.

Gorilla Monsoon vs Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali and Prince! One thing that was revealed in perhaps more detail than we’d previously realised after Prince’s death was how great a sports fan he was and here he is with The Greatest.

Joe Bugner was famously able to go the distance with Ali not once but twice, and there’s a lovely fight poster in the tweet below.

Another literary recommendation, this time from a reader. Jon Pitt. “If you can find a non-paywall link to Tom Wolfe’s “Marvelous Mouth”, that would be a very worthy addition to your Muhammad Ali liveblog. It follows him around NYC leading up to the Liston fight when he’s at his most showbiz…really enjoyable.”

Here’s another beauty from our own Kevin Mitchell:

A statement from former US President Bill Clinton

Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of Muhammad Ali. From the day he claimed the Olympic gold medal in 1960, boxing fans across the world knew they were seeing a blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again. We watched him grow from the brash self-confidence of youth and success into a manhood full of religious and political convictions that led him to make tough choices and live with the consequences. Along the way we saw him courageous in the ring, inspiring to the young, compassionate to those in need, and strong and good-humored in bearing the burden of his own health challenges.

I was honored to award him the Presidential Citizens Medal at the White House, to watch him light the Olympic flame, and to forge a friendship with a man who, through triumph and trials, became even greater than his legend. Our hearts go out to Lonnie, his children, and his entire family.

US President Bill Clinton and Muhammed Ali
US President Bill Clinton presents Muhammed Ali and his trainer Angelo Dundee (right) with an award in October, 2000. Photograph: Reuters Photographer / Reuters/REUTERS

It wouldn’t be a proper tribute to Muhammad Ali without an interjection or two from Howard Cosell, so here’s Ali’s verbal sparring partner in fine form wrangling the champ and basketball champion Wilt Chamberlain on ABC’s Wide World of Sport.

Ali v Chamberlain, featuring Howard Cosell.

British boxing hero Ricky Hatton has paid tribute to Ali, who says it was an honour to meet Ali.

Muhammad Ali dead at 74 – a summary of today’s events so far

  • The world is currently mourning the death of boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, has died aged 74 after being admitted to a hospital in Pheonix on Thursday, after his condition was complicated by a respiratory illness.
  • The US boxing promoter Bob Arum, 84, who promoted many of Ali’s fights, said “a true great has left us. Muhammed Ali transformed this country and impacted the world with his spirit,” Arum said, adding that the first fight he ever attended was the epic 115-round bout between Ali and George Chuvalo in 1966.
  • George Foreman, who was Ali’s opponent in the legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ bout in 1974, took to Twitter to share his grief. “A part of me slipped away, “The greatest piece,’” Foreman wrote. Foreman also told the BBC that “part of me is gone”.
  • Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr told Fox News that Ali had inspired the black community. “The black community all around the world, black people all around the world, needed him,” he said. “He was the voice for us. He’s the voice for me to be where I’m at today. I just want to thank Muhammad Ali and his family for being such strong people. You will always be missed. My prayers go out to Ali and his family.”
  • Former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield told MSNBC: “I’m glad to have known Ali because when I was a kid, at eight years old, I was told I would be like Ali”.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, pictured with wife Lonnie at one of his daughter Leila’s fights in 2005, has died at the age of 74.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, pictured with wife Lonnie at one of his daughter Leila’s fights in 2005, has died at the age of 74. Photograph: Peer Grimm/EPA

There’s a nice tribute here from one of Australia’s greatest ever athletes, Cathy Freeman, who says Ali “symbolises greatness for all the world over.”

When Ali met Fidel Castro, apparently he couldn’t resist a prank.

Ali meets Fidel Castro.

Oscar De La Hoya has posted a Twitter tribute to Muhammad Ali with a typically cheeky photo attached.

There’s a message from Ali’s daughter and undefeated professional boxer Laila Ali, which she posted to her Facebook page the night before her father’s death: “I love this photo of my father and my daughter Sydney when she was a baby! Thank for all the love and well wishes. I feel your love and appreciate it.”

Laila Ali with her father
Laila Ali with her father at the premiere of the film ‘Ali’ in December, 2001. Photograph: Graham Whitby Boot/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

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The World Boxing Association has released a statement saying that Ali was a “boxing legend, [who] was a social fighter and an honourable man. He was an outstanding committed athlete, who gave the best in the ring, a man who became world champion as well as a role model and inspiration for many young people,” the Association said.

“He defended his ideals and he believed in a better society. The whole world mourns the death of the man who became a [hallmark] of defence and speed in boxing. Rest in peace.”

Muhammad Ali dines with Bill Withers and Don King
Muhammad Ali dines with Bill Withers and Don King in a scene from Jeffrey Levy-Hinte’s 2008 film, ‘Soul Power’. Photograph: Allstar/SONY PICTURES CLASSICS/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

Some reaction from an Australian boxing hero, Jeff Fenech

Fenech has told Guardian Australia he hoped Ali was “in a much better place.”

“It’s a sad day,” he said. “He was the greatest humanitarian that ever lived, who was the rare person who actually practised what he preached. He was one in a billion, a humanitarian who also stood up for what he believed in. It’s a pity there aren’t more Muhammad Ali’s out there, because the world would be a much better place.”

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali strikes a pose in 1970. Photograph: Allstar/United Artists

The gift of the gab – some more great Muhammad Ali quotes

“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

“At home I am a nice guy but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”

“I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, and throw thunder in jail. You know I’m bad. Just last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”

“I’m not the greatest. I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round. I’m the boldest, the prettiest, the most superior, most scientific, most skillfullest fighter in the ring today.”

Muhammad Ali in a scene from the 1977 film, ‘The Greatest’.
Muhammad Ali in a scene from the 1977 film, ‘The Greatest’. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/BRITISH LION

Former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield has now spoken about the loss of Ali, telling MSNBC: “I’m glad to have known Ali because when I was a kid, at eight years old, I was told I would be like Ali.”

“To take it upon yourself and say; ‘I’m the greatest’, you put yourself in a position for people to take pot shots at you. This is what Ali did. It’s amazing him becoming three-time heavyweight champion of the world. At that time people thought, ‘Who could beat three? You have to be stronger to get up from a loss to go on and that’s what Ali proved to be.”

Evander Holyfield
Former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield has paid tribute to Muhammad Ali. Photograph: Matt Slocum/AP

Jarryd Hayne has also tweeted a tribute to The Greatest. “Loved his character/personality”, he says.

Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather has now spoken of Ali’s death, telling Fox News: “There will never be another Muhammad Ali. The black community all around the world, black people all around the world, needed him. He was the voice for us. He’s the voice for me to be where I’m at today.”

Ali and his wife Yolanda attended Mayweather’s fight against Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena back in May, 2010.

Muhammad Ali and his wife Yolanda
Muhammad Ali and his wife Yolanda are introduced at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, May 1, 2010. Photograph: Steve Marcus/Reuters

UFC star Jon Jones has also paid tribute to Ali, posing with some items with which he’ll remember the boxing great.

Manny Pacquiao has reacted to the news now, sharing a short statement on Ali. “We lost a giant today,” it starts. “Boxing benefitted from Muhammad Ali’s talents but not nearly as much as mankind benefited from his humanity. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Ali family. May god bless them.”

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao has paid tribute to Muhammad Ali, saying ‘mankind benefited from his humanity.’ Photograph: Mike Nelson/EPA

Of course you can’t understand the full story of Ali the man without considering the issue of the Vietnam War, and this tweet from Salon political journalist Ben Norton has the money quote.

Indian cricket great Virender Sehwag has paid tribute to Ali in a tweet.

Other great writing on Muhammad Ali: you certainly can’t go past New Yorker editor David Remnick’s biography, ‘King of the World’. For something shorter, try this profile piece, ‘American Hunger’, from The New Yorker.

There’s an incredible series of tweets up at the moment by journalist Michael McEwan, detailing Ali’s visits to the bedside of boxer Michael Watson after he’s suffered serious head injuries fighting Chris Eubank in 1991. Doctors feared that Watson wouldn’t recover and he was unable to move or communicate. Then, as McEwan tells, this happened:

We’re throwing a lot of reading material at you I know, but if you’d like to feel like you’re ringside hearing the full weight of an Ali punch, Mark Kram’s sublime account of the 1975 ‘Thrilla in Manila’ between Ali and Joe Frazier is one of the classic pieces of sportswriting, as is Kram’s book, ‘Ghosts of Manila’.

You can read his fight report for Sports Illustrated here. It’s a gem, I assure you. Sports Illustrated would later vote it one of their 60 best stories ever.

Former WBC champion Frank Bruno sent this tweet before Ali’s death had been confirmed, but the lovely sentiment remains.

Just going back to ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ for a second, a matter of hours after Ali had defeated Foreman in that famous fight he spoke to Hugh McIlvanney, ensuring a meeting of two heavyweights in their respective fields. Enjoy.

“Man, that is a hell of an upset. It will be weeks before I realise the impact of this. I don’t feel like I’m champion again yet. I can’t wait to see all them magazines. They got to say I’m the greatest now, the greatest of all times. I fooled them all. They thought I’d have to try and dance against George, that my legs would go and I’d get tagged. George thought that too. But that was my main thing, not dancin’.

I guess a lot of country’s have their own little claim to Ali. Last year Guardian Australia’s Joe Gorman explored Ali’s visit to Fitzroy, north of Melbourne, in 1979. It’s a lovely little story.

But of course you can’t say the words “Ali” and “Australia” and not revel in the pure joy of The Champ going head to head with Bert Newton at the Logies. International readers: think a very low-rent Golden Globes. “I like the boy!”

Muhammad Ali at the Logies.

We couldn’t say for sure, but you wouldn’t bet against ‘When We Were Kings’ being among the most streamed items on Netflix in the next 24 hours. Here’s the trailer to the classic boxing documentary. “I’m so mean I make medicine sick!”

When We Were Kings – trailer.

Updated

Another of Ali’s famous rivals, George Foreman, has paid tribute to the man against whom he fought the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. “A part of me slipped away,” he says.

Was there any sportsperson as photogenic as Muhammad Ali? Our photo editor Jonny Weeks had a tough task on his hands picking 25 great photographs of The Champ but there’s some beautiful ones in here.

In particular, this one from 1971 in which he’s goading Joe Frazier in patented style is just magnificent. Of course in this instance at least, Frazier had the last laugh.

Muhammad Ali (taunts rival boxer Joe Frazier at Frazier’s training headquarters, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early 1971.
Muhammad Ali (taunts rival boxer Joe Frazier at Frazier’s training headquarters, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early 1971. Photograph: John Shearer/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

Now a tribute from another former heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson, who says “God came for his champion.”

If you’d like to re-live Ali at his greatest, our own Sean Ingle has compiled a list of the 20 moments that made him ‘The Greatest’. The photograph therein of Malcolm X snapping a quick pic of Ali after he’d beaten Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion of the world is a gem.

An early tribute from another legend of the fight game, boxing promoter Bob Arum:

It feels right to start this appreciation of Ali’s life with one of his most emotional non-Boxing moments – when the champ lit the flame at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics:

Muhammad Ali lights the 1996 Olympic flame.

Welcome readers on what is a sad day as the world mourns the loss of Muhammad Ali, who has died at the age of 74 in a Phoenix-area hospital. We will bringing you live updates and reactions to the passing of a sporting icon.

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