"Spirituality is recognizing the divine light that is within us all.
It doesn't belong to any particular religion; it belongs to everyone."
The 74-year-old boxer and civil rights champion died Friday from respiratory complications after a three-decade battle with Parkinson's disease.
After he missed 3 1/2 years of his prime, his sentence for opposing the Vietnam War and refusing to sign up for battle, Ali returned to the ring and jump-started a golden age for boxing. By this point, his reputation and persona went full-blown international, and the depth his popularity was demonstrated when he and George Foreman fought in Zaire in 1974. The heavyweight championship was a first for Africa, and the developing country and continent were abuzz. The attendance was 60,000, a staggering number considering it was held at 4 a.m. local time to appease American TV.
Ali was a uniter, a man of peace. And he was also a man of the people. He could walk the streets of South Central LA and the shops in Beverley Hills the same day. He shook hands with poor Latinos and rubbed shoulders with the well-heeled from Wall Street. He embraced the media and never had a PR person standing by like a sentry and shouting, "last question." He was the first to be surrounded by an entourage but never used it to shield him from the public. The superstar athletes today either cannot match that or will not, and their fame is only a fraction of Ali's. There are a billion stories circulating today about Ali because he met a billion people. The common man could touch him.
After boxing legend, cultural icon, and civil-rights activist Muhammad Ali passed away late Friday evening at the age of 74, the rest of the boxing world collectively mourned. In a statement, George Foreman, Ali's opponent in the famed "Rumble in the Jungle" match, described the late boxer as "one of the greatest human beings I have ever met." He said: "No doubt he was one of the best people to have lived in this day and age. To put him as a boxer is an injustice." Alongside a picture of his younger self seated with Ali, Mike Tyson tweeted: "God came for his champion. So long great one." Oscar de la Hoya, a fellow ex-world champion, remembered Ali as "a legend who transcended sport and was a true champion for all." "He stood for something that he really believed in," five-time champion Evander Holyfield said. Famed fight promoter Don King lamented, "It's a sad day for life, man." Manny Pacquiao tweeted a dramatic photo of Ali, with the caption: "We lost a giant today. You will always be [greatest of all-time]." Frank Bruno called Ali a "mentor, friend and earthly god of humanity", while Lennox Lewis said: "A giant among men, Ali displayed a greatness in talent, courage & conviction, that most of us will EVER be able to truly comprehend." Floyd Mayweather Jr. told Fox News there will never be another Muhammad Ali: "The black community all around the world, black people all around the world, needed him. He was the voice for us. He's the voice for me to be where I'm at today."
The New York Times described Ali as a "Titan of Boxing and the 20th Century."
President Barack Obama held the champion prizefighter up as a man of integrity and said in his private study he keeps a pair of Ali's gloves on display just under an iconic photograph of when he beat Sonny Liston in 1965.
"Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period," Obama said in a statement Saturday. "If you just asked him, he'd tell you. He'd tell you he was the double greatest; that he'd 'handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.' But what made The Champ the greatest — what truly separated him from everyone else — is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing," the president added.
He shook up the world, and the world's better for it. Rest in peace, Champ. pic.twitter.com/z1yM3sSLH3— President Obama (@POTUS) June 4, 2016
The sporting universe has just suffered a big loss. Muhammad Ali was my friend, my idol, my hero. We spent many moments together and always kept a good connection throughout the years. The sadness is overwhelming. I wish him peace with God. And I send love and strength to his family. // O universo do esporte sofre uma grande perda. Muhammad Ali era meu amigo, meu idolo, meu heroi. Passamos muitos momentos juntos e sempre mantivemos contatos todos esses anos. A tristeza é enorme. Desejo que ele descanse junto a Deus e amor e força à sua familia. #RIP @muhammadali
Muhammad Ali dodging 21 punches in 10 seconds vs. Michael Dokes. pic.twitter.com/P3XWuC2SHG— Historical Pics (@HistoricalPics) June 4, 2016
» Newsweek: "Key Fights in Muhammad Ali's Legendary Career"
» NPR: "Muhammad Ali, The Boxing Poet Who Inspired Liquid Prose"
» Chicago Tribune: "Muhammad Ali's exile years in Chicago: 'Learning about life'"
» Washington Post: "President Obama remembers Muhammad Ali as a man who ‘shook up the world’"
» Slate: "The Time Muhammad Ali Stopped a Man From Leaping to His Death"
» Cleveland.com: "Remembering Cleveland's Muhammad Ali Summit, 45 years later"