Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, aka "The Greatest," one of the top sports figures of all time, died at age 74 at a Phoenix-area hospital on Friday night.
Ali was said to have died of complications from Parkinson's disease, from which he'd suffered since the 1990s. Following medical setbacks that put him the hospital in 2014 and 2015, Ali was rushed to a hospital on Tuesday with a respiratory illness. His family gathered as his condition worsened on Friday, and a spokesman later announced Ali's death.
His declining mental condition was thought to have been brought on by repeated head blows during his career. The condition robbed him of motor skills, reducing his gait to a shuffle in recent years and making it difficult for him to do simple tasks. But family and friends said his mental faculties remained sharp, at least at times. In December, he responded to statements by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying "We, as Muslims, have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam."
Ali was born January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, and from humble beginnings rose to become the world's best-known athlete. His speed and power were nearly unmatched in the ring, and he entertained fans and the public alike with his insight and wit.
Although he could be an extremely divisive figure — he was banned from boxing for three years after refusing to submit to the draft during the Vietnam War — Ali went on to help countless people with his charitable donations and advocacy for Parkinson's research and treatment. After he moved to Paradise Valley in 2015, he funded what's now called the Muhammad Ali Parkinson's Center at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix.
His funeral is planned to take place in Louisville, where Mayor Greg Fischer ordered flags lowered to half-staff. More details were expected to be released on Saturday morning.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.