Muhammad Ali, who famously proclaimed himself “The Greatest,” and then spent a lifetime living up to the billing, has passed away.
The silver-tongued boxer and civil rights champion died Friday at a Phoenix-area hospital where he had spent the past few days being treated for respiratory complications, possibly complicated by the Parkinson’s that he was diagnosed with in the 1980s.
He had a way of talking up his own talents, often in verse, but was always able to back up his talk with action.
“You know I don’t run, I dance,” Ali once said during an interview in 1964 with Bob Halloran, when Ali was still known as Cassius Clay. “Sugar Ray never did run, he danced. Danced I told you. I told you I float like a butterfly. I don’t run, it’s different then dancin’. I can knock a man up — backin’ up.”
When he was 22, he renounced Cassius Clay as his “slave name” and said he would be known from then on as Muhammad Ali.
He was then drafted to serve in the U.S. Army at the height of the Vietnam War in 1967, but refused to serve, saying he had “no quarrel” with the Viet Cong.
The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer was an anti-establishment showman who transcended borders and barriers, race and religion.
Muhammad Ali was 74. (td)