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Boxer known as 'The Greatest' died from respiratory illness

Reporter: Damion Jones 丨 CCTV.com

06-04-2016 15:46 BJT

He truly was one of a kind. And it is still shocking to say the words, Muhammad Ali has died. He was a true icon in boxing, and was loved the world over.

Muhammad Ali first came to prominence when he won a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, but his most enduring image might be lighting the Cauldron at the 1996 Atlanta Games. And in the years in between, he carved out a legacy that earned him a very straightforward nickname.

Shortly after turning pro, the man then known as Cassius Clay would set out to prove just that, and on February 25, 1964, he defeated Sonny Liston by technical knockout to become world heavyweight champion for the first time.

"All of you reporters made it hard on Liston. Never write about me like that. Never make me six-to-one. You just make me angry. Never make me no underdog and never talk about who's going to stop me. Ain't nobody who's going to stop me. Not a heavyweight in the world fast enough to stop me," said Muhammad Ali in Feb. 1964.

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

And it would indeed be a long time before oddsmakers thought of the newly-minted titleholder as an underdog again, but his first title reign would be interrupted by a suspension, when he refused to join the US Army and serve in the Vietnam War. Having converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali shortly after becoming champion, he considered himself a conscientious objector.

The controversy marked a major step in Ali's evolution from professional athlete to social activist, and he would throw his support behind a number of humanitarian causes in the ensuing decades. His boxing license was reinstated in 1970, but he lost the title to Joe Frazier in his third fight back from exile, the first defeat of his career. They would meet again four years later.

After winning the rematch with Frazier, Ali knocked out George Foreman to take back the world title nine months later, and became the first-ever three-time heavyweight champion by avenging a loss to Leon Spinks four years after that. He retired in 1981, and was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease three years later. But undeterred by his illness, Ali traveled the globe to promote humanitarian causes for as long as he could, truly fighting -- until the end.

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