Calling him a “Titan of Boxing and the 20th Century,” The New York Times reports that Muhammad Ali, 74, has died.
Writes Robert Lipsyte for The Times, “Muhammad Ali, the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion who helped define his turbulent times as the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, died on Friday.”
Ali died at Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center, in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he had been hospitalized on Thursday with respiratory problems. In the early 1980s Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Writes Lipsyte in a long, must-read obituary/profile of Ali, “Ali was as polarizing a superstar as the sports world has ever produced — both admired and vilified in the 1960s and ’70s for his religious, political and social stances. His refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War, his rejection of racial integration at the height of the civil rights movement, his conversion from Christianity to Islam and the changing of his “slave” name, Cassius Clay, to one bestowed by the separatist black sect he joined, the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, were perceived as serious threats by the conservative establishment and noble acts of defiance by the liberal opposition.
“Loved or hated, he remained for 50 years one of the most recognizable people on the planet.”
The late writer Norman Mailer once wrote about Ali that he is “the swiftest embodiment of human intelligence we have had yet, he is the very spirit of the 20th century.”
Here’s an interesting program featuring Ali that we found on YouTube: