“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
Those words were uttered by legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who was a long time philanthropist, civil rights activist and boxing legend. Ali passed away on Friday, June 3, due to septic shock at the age of 74. The Huffington Post states that the boxer was hospitalized on Thursday, June 2,with respiratory complications and was declared to be in “fair condition.” His status took a turn for the worst as his organs began to fail one by one, until his courageous heart stopped. The man who was known for his heart and passion was the victim of sepsis, which affects more than one million Americans each year, as reported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Born Cassius Clay in the southern town of Louisville, Kentucky in 1942, Ali and those around him saw his greatness from day one. The icon faced harsh racial discrimination growing up, which attributed his staunch activism for civil rights.
After having his bicycle stolen at the age of 12, he was told to learn how to fight by a local police officer. This invitation into the world of boxing ignited the fire in Ali’s belly as he quickly learned the ropes. At the age of 18, he won the Gold Medal for boxing in the 1960 Olympic games in Italy and stirred up fans all over the globe with his fast feet, even faster hands and boisterous attitude. Just four years later, the young fighter became the World Heavyweight Champion for the first time after defeating Sonny Liston.
Ali went on to join the black Muslim group, the Nation of Islam, in 1964 and showed his discontent with war; particularly the Vietnam War. In the following years, the boxing icon was drafted in 1967 to fight in a war he did not believe in. He refused to serve and challenged the status quo, but was found guilty of felony charges and sentenced to five years in prison. After his arrest, he was stripped of his Heavyweight title, his boxing license and was forced behind bars, which he learned quickly was no place for a lion hearted fighter. His case was overturned just three years later and returned to fighting in 1970. The infamous three-year confinement has been considered a theft of a portion of his prime years of boxing.
“The Fight of the Century” against Joe Frazier ensued and the 14-round bout was his first professional loss after winning 31 consecutive bouts. The loss was not taken lightly, as he came back to defeat Frazier in a 1974 rematch. Ali traveled around the globe to fight and to assist others who were less fortunate. He fought George Forman and won his second Heavyweight Title in the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire, and he also defeated Frazier in the 1975 “Thrilla in Manilla.” Both notable victories by Ali went down in history as two of the greatest boxing matches ever seen. Three years later in 1978, Ali lost his title to Leon Spinks, only to win it back in a rematch, giving Ali his third title, which has never been done before.
Just three years after his final match in 1981, Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984 at the age of 42.
His humanitarian efforts are still felt to this day, as he has been an avid humanitarian, philanthropist and civil rights leader until the moment he passed away. As a strong supporter of the Make-A-Wish foundation, the Special Olympics and much more, Ali always opened his mouth when others were not able to speak up for themselves.
The three-time Heavyweight Champion of the world never backed down from a fight and embraced the challenges that life threw him, inside the ring and out. He spoke his mind and gave this world his everything while being a father and a world champion boxer. Ali never let life’s punches knock him down. He lived his life through these creative words; “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.”