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Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dies

A heavyweight in and out of the ring, Ali was one of the greatest sportsmen of the 20th century. He riveted the world with dazzling footwork, flying fists and a larger than life personality.

Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest sportsmen to ever live, died late Friday night at a Phoenix, Arizona, hospital after being hospitalized earlier this week for a respiratory ailment. He was 74.

Ali had suffered from Parkinson's disease since being diagnosed three years after his retirement from boxing in 1981. Doctors believe the Parkinson's disease was caused by the thousands of punches he took to the head during a three-decade career that earned him a record three heavyweight titles.

Nicknamed "The Greatest," Ali had a record of 56 wins, 37 by knockout, and five losses.

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds in his prime, his ability to "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," captivated audiences around the globe.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, Ali changed his name in 1964 when he converted to Islam. He changed his name because he said Cassius Clay was the name a white master gave to slaves and he wanted to choose a "beautiful African name."

Ali left his mark on the world outside of the ring just as much as he did in it. He was known for his civil rights activism and humanitarianism that won him praise during his career and afterwards.

He became a symbol of black liberation and civil rights for refusing to be drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War for religious reasons. His anti-war activism cost him some three years of fighting in his prime.

While he was loved by many, his cockiness and social commentary also turned him into a reviled figure for some.

Watch video 02:17

Muhammad Ali dies aged 74

The man who used to rumble in the ring was slowly taken down by his battle with Parkinson's, a debilitating disease that made him tremble and lose his voice.

Ali's last public appearance was in April at the "Celebrity Fight Night" gala in Arizona, a charity that benefits sufferers of Parkinson's disease.

His appearance at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996 shocked many, who witnessed a man once larger than life lighting the Olympic flame with trembling hands. He also attended the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 in a wheelchair.

Ali had been married four times. He had nine children.

Watch video 04:34

DW's Kres Harrington on the death of boxing giant Muhammad Ali

cw/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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