Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dead at 74

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Muhammad Ali, who is widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight boxer in the history of the sport and one of the most recognized people in the world, has died at a Phoenix-area hospital, his spokesman says. He was 74 years old.

Family spokesman Bob Gunnell said in a brief statement that Ali died on late Friday. It came just days after he was hospitalized near Phoenix for treatment of a respiratory issue that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease, prompting speculation about his deteriorating health.

“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” Gunnell said in the statement. His funeral will take place in his hometown of Louisville in Kentucky.

Ali had been hospitalized several times over the past few years and looked increasingly frail in public appearances. He was admitted for a mild case of pneumonia in December 2014 and returned for treatment of a urinary tract infection in January 2015 after he was found unresponsive at a guest house in Scottsdale, Arizona.

A three-time World Heavyweight Boxing champion known for his “rope-a-dope” technique and clever rhymes, he is arguably the most famous boxers in the world. He won his first world championship in 1964 from Sonny Liston in what some called a stunning upset, and he later went on to win an Olympic gold medal for boxing during the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

His success in boxing, which was seen around the world, made him one of the most recognized sports figures on Earth. Unsurprisingly, in 1999 he was named “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.

Ali retired from professional boxing in 1981 and revealed several years later that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which is commonly the result of head trauma caused by boxing. Despite the diagnosis, he appeared at WrestleMania I as a special guest referee just months later.

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