A look back at the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali, the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion who helped define his turbulent times as the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, died on Friday in a Phoenix-area hospital. "After a 32-year battle with Parkinson's disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74," family spokesman Bob Gunell said.
Sole looks back at the life of the most famous sportsman of all time.
Ali was as polarizing a superstar as the sports world has ever produced — both admired and vilified in the 1960s and ’70s for his religious, political and social stances.
Aged 12 he reported his bike stolen to a local police officer, Joe Martin, and declared he wanted to beat up the thief. Martin's response was to tell him, that being the case, he ought to learn how to box, and that he ran courses in his spare time at a local gym.
His skill was quickly evident. He progressed to win six state titles, two Golden Gloves titles and another from the Amateur Athletic Union, leading to his selection for the American team at the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he won the gold medal. He was later said to have tossed it into the Ohio River in disgust after being refused service in a whites-only restaurant.
Having won the gold he returned to Kentucky to forge a professional career. He won his first fight in 1960 against a police commissioner from West Virginia, Tunney Hunsaker. Later, in 1963, after 17 more bouts and now 21, he travelled to London to face Henry Cooper, and recovered from being knocked down in the fourth round to win in the fifth. After this he was given his first World Heavyweight title shot, against Sonny Liston.
After beating Liston in Miami in early 1964, and becoming the youngest ever heavyweight champion at 22 - in the only heavyweight decider under his original name - Ali, now working with trainer Angelo Dundee, successfully defended the title nine times in the next three years.
Two of these were in London in the Summer of 1966. First again stopping the badly cut Cooper in the sixth round and then knocking out Brian London in the third.
Having converted to Islam and changed his name in 1964, following his first win over Liston, Ali became a Conscientious Objector. In 1967 he refused the draft for the Vietnam War and had his license suspended. With the mood turning against the conflict, he toured colleges and universities to speak. He was convicted of refusing the draft in 1967, although this was overturned in 1971.
His license restored in 1970 following a legal battle, Ali defeated Jerry Quarry to help set up what became known as the 'Fight of the Century', his first match against Joe Frazier at New York's Madison Square Garden. With Frank Sinatra forced to blag a photographer's pass to get ringside, reality was the equal of hype and the fight went 15 rounds, with the undefeated Frazier flooring Ali in the 15th, to win unanimously on points. In 1973, having seen off Britain's Joe Bugner in Las Vegas, Ken Norton broke Ali's jaw and defeated him over 12 rounds on a split decision. Revenge was extracted six months later with a split decision over the same distance.
With George Foreman having dethroned Frazier, Ali had a non-title rematch with the latter and this time he triumphed on a unanimous 12-round decision. His worldwide stardom so entrenched, promoter Don King takes Ali to Zaire in October 1974 for what was famously billed as the Rumble in the Jungle. Against a seemingly impregnable Foreman, Ali employed his famous 'rope-a-dope' strategy, deliberately soaking up largely ineffective punches, verbally taunting his opponent and tiring the younger man out before decking him in the eighth round to score a sensational upset.
A year later King took Ali to the Philippines to tackle Frazier for the third and final time in the Thrilla in Manila. In temperatures approaching 100 degrees Ali weathered a mid-fight comeback from his ageing rival to win over 14 rounds.
Ali retired in 1981, just shy of his 40th birthday, with a record of 56 wins and five losses. He was chosen to light the Olympic torch in 1996 in Atlanta and was named a UN messenger of peace in 1998. In 1999, BBC Sports Personality anointed him Sports Personality of the Century after a popular vote. Ali went on to receive the highest US civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2005.