Perhaps the sport of boxing’s greatest icon, Muhammad Ali, has passed away.
Ali was said to be in “extraordinarily grave” condition Friday, according to a source close to the family. The former world champion was hospitalized in Arizona on Thursday, with a severe respiratory condition, complicated by a two-decade long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Close friends and family gathered at the hospital Friday afternoon to say their goodbyes and to make the appropriate arrangements.
Widely considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, and easily the sport’s most recognizable and popular figure in history, Ali ended his career in 1981 with a professional record of 56-5, winning 37 of his fights by knockout. Actively involved in social discussions on politics, religion, and racial equality, Ali became not only a figurehead of a sport, but one of the great icons in American history.
Once a hugely controversial, and often disliked fighter by media and fans alike, Ali (then Cassius Clay) actually drew inspiration from one of pro wrestling’s first mainstream super-villains, Gorgeous George. In an era where most boxers left the talking to promoters, Ali frequently led press conferences and became famous for trash talking many of his opponents in and out of the ring, which quickly made his fights a must-see event.
Several of his rivalries became so popular that even decades later, even their taglines are known to people who have never seen a single boxing match – “The Fight of the Century” or “The Thrilla in Manilla” against the great Joe Frazier, for instance, or his “Rumble in the Jungle” with then-world champion George Foreman.
– WWE has issued the following statement on the passing of boxing icon Muhammad Ali:
WWE is saddened to learn that two-time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali passed away at age 74 on June 3, 2016.
The Louisville native won six Kentucky Golden Glove Championships and the gold medal for the United States as a light heavyweight in Rome’s 1960 Summer Olympics before beginning his professional career.
Ali also made history for his historic boxer vs. wrestler match against WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki in Tokyo on June 26, 1976. The fight is regarded as a precursor to modern mixed martial arts.
In 1985, Ali made his mark in WWE history when he was one of the special guest referees for the main event of the first WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden. The bout featured WWE Champion Hulk Hogan and pop culture icon Mr. T against “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. During the contest, Ali climbed up onto the ring apron and took a swing at Piper.
WWE extends its condolences to Ali’s family, friends and fans.