Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali lost his 30-year fight with Parkinson’s syndrome on Friday, at age 74.
Ali had been hospitalized on Thursday in the Phoenix area with respiratory issues that were complicated by Parkinson’s, which he was diagnosed with in 1984. As his health waned in recent years, Ali was previously hospitalized on January 2015 for a urinary tract infection, only to be released the next day.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., the Louisville native won the world heavyweight championship at age 22, beating Sonny Liston. (Afterward, he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name.) On his way to becoming the sport’s only three-time lineal world heavyweight champion, Ali would reclaim the title again in 1974 and 1978, earning the nickname “The Greatest.” In 1999, Sports Illustrated named him the Sportsman of the Century.
In the midst of his rise to fame, Ali in 1967 refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing religious beliefs and his opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He was found guilty on draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing title; in 1971, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court got his conviction overturned.
On TV, the verbose and genial Ali was a ubiquitous guest on talk and variety shows in the 1960s and ’70s, got the This Is Your Life treatment in 1978, and guested on episodes of Vega$, Touched by an Angel and Diff’rent Strokes (as Arnold’s hero). He also was of course featured in When We Were Kings, the Academy Award-winning documentary about the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire between him and champion George Foreman.
Foreman responded to Ali’s passing via Twitter Friday night, saying, “Ali, Frazier and Foreman — we were one guy. A part of me slipped away, ‘The greatest piece.'”
Watch David Frost interview Ali after the Foreman fight: