By BBN Staff: Muhammad Ali, world heavyweight boxing champion who captured many hearts with his flamboyant style and enduring heart, died this evening of respiratory failure caused by Parkinson’s syndrome.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, he became a star after changing his name following his first defeat of Sonny Liston in 1964. Ali started in the Nation of Islam before adopting traditional Islam in his later years.
The young champion would visit the-then British Honduras in 1964 and hold public sparring workouts in Belize City, endearing himself to yet another population.
Ali achieved perhaps his greatest fame by saying no on grounds of conscience to participating in the Vietnam War, losing his title and the prime of his career.
However, some of his best moments – the enduring rivalry with Joe Frazier; a triumphant destruction of George Foreman in the jungles of the former Zaire and many decades as a national hero, symbolized in his lighting of the Olympic torch in Atlanta in 1996 – were ahead of him.
In the end, Parkinson’s and time did what many of his opponents could not – knock him out. But his sporting legacy and paving the way for modern athletes cannot be denied.
Ali is survived by 4 wives and many children and other relatives.
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