Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali Dies at 74

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston, shouting and gesturing shortly after dropping Liston with a short hard right to the jaw on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/John Rooney)

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston, shouting and gesturing shortly after dropping Liston with a short hard right to the jaw on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/John Rooney)

PHOENIX, Ariz (AP) – Muhammad Ali died Friday at age 74, according to a statement from the family. He was hospitalized in the Phoenix area with respiratory problems earlier this week, and his children had flown in from around the country.

“It’s a sad day for life, man. I loved Muhammad Ali, he was my friend. Ali will never die,” Don King, who promoted some of Ali’s biggest fights, told The Associated Press early Saturday. “Like Martin Luther King his spirit will live on, he stood for the world.”

A funeral will be held in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The city plans a memorial service Saturday.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honor Ali.

“The values of hard work, conviction and compassion that Muhammad Ali developed while growing up in Louisville helped him become a global icon,” Fischer said. “As a boxer, he became The Greatest, though his most lasting victories happened outside the ring.”

Tributes to Muhammad Ali rolled in from around the world Saturday, just hours after his death.

“The Greatest” had been hospitalized for respiratory problems Thursday, and news spread that this illness was serious. Late Friday, his family confirmed that he had died.

Reaction came in from around the world of sports, entertainment and politics. President Bill Clinton who awarded Ali the Presidential Citizens Medal, mourned the death of the three-time heavyweight champion.

“Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of Muhammad Ali,” Clinton said in a statement. “From the day he claimed the Olympic gold medal in 1960, boxing fans across the world knew they were seeing a blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again.”

Congo’s government is mourning the death of boxer Muhammad Ali and remembering with warmth his famous “Rumble in the Jungle” fight there.

“This is someone who helped make our country visible in the 1970s,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said by telephone Saturday.

Ali in October 1974 won over the country’s citizens before upsetting George Foreman in the capital, Kinshasa, to become heavyweight champion once again at age 32.

“This is someone who built a bridge between African-Americans and Africans,” Mende said. “He will always have an important place in the hearts of the Congolese.”

He said Congo’s government expressed deep sympathy for Ali’s family.

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