The iconic fighter passed away on Friday after being hospitalized for respiratory issues, according to NBC News. Earlier today, Ali's family gathered by his hospital bedside in Phoenix as reports said the icon was in "grave condition." Ali, who was 74 years old, had been battling Parkinson's disease for nearly 30 years.
Synonymous with the sport, Ali began his life far from the spotlight of the ring in January 1942 in segregated Louisville, Ky. as Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. Ali's parents, Cassius Sr. and Odessa, provided for Ali and his younger brother by working as a billboard painter and household domestic respectively.
As the story goes, 12-year-old Ali was first inspired to take up the sport after his bicycle was stolen. After reporting the theft to a policeman, the preteen boasted about how he wanted to beat up the person responsible, but the policeman told him he needed to learn how to fight first. Just like that, the future "People's Champion" was set on his path to athletic stardom.
He won his first amateur fight that same year, and went on to compete in the Olympic games six years later, winning the light heavyweight gold medal. Soon after, he launched his professional career and continued for years without any recorded losses.
However, Ali quickly garnered a reputation for his abrasive behavior in the ring, mouthing off and insulting his opponents.
The behavior followed up to his first legendary match against Sonny Liston, an intimidating reigning champion, for the World Heavyweight Championship of 1964. After reportedly slamming Liston with offensive remarks in the days prior to the fight, reporters doubted Ali would even arrive out of fear, but he did and walked away a 22-year-old champion with the title.
"He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life," he famously said.
While Ali went on to win multiple fights, including one against Ernie Terrell deemed...
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