JUNE 7, 2016
Muhammad Ali was born in January 1942 as Cassius Clay. He began boxing as an amateur after his bicycle was stolen and a police officer offered to train him. Clay won a gold medal as a light heavyweight at the 1960 Olympics, then turned pro, fighting his first bout in his hometown. In 1964 he became heavyweight champion (the youngest ever at the time) with a surprising knockout of Sonny Liston. That year he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Ali went on to win the heavyweight title twice more before retiring for good in 1981 with a record of 56-5.
The world mourned Ali’s death on Friday night at age 74, the result of septic shock due to unspecified natural causes. Muhammad’s extraordinary boxing career only encompassed half of his life. The other half was committed to sharing a message of peace and inclusion with the world. Following his wishes, his funeral will reflect those principles, and be a celebration open to everyone. He spent his final hours surrounded by children and grandchildren,. They took turns holding his hands, hugging and kissing him, and whispering in his ear. “It was beautiful” Hana Ali said “He was at peace”.
“I know it sounds crazy, but I think we all just thought Daddy would defy the odds of even death,” Hana Ali said. “He just seemed to always fight through everything.”
The boxing champ had already addressed how he wanted the world to think about him after his death. In his book “The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey,” Ali said he wanted to be remembered as “a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous, and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.” He added, ” And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people, and I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.” Ali will be remembered by many as “The Greatest” or “The Champion” and will forever be a icon in many people’s eyes.
Muhammad Ali’s funeral will be open to the public, his spokesman Bob Gunnell said. The jenazah will take place at noon Thursday at Freedom Hall — where Ali defeated Willi Besmanoff on November 29, 1961. Muhammad Ali was truly the people’s champion, and the celebration will reflect his devotion to people of all races, religions and backgrounds.