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Muhammad Ali: The Boxing Legend and Fighter who transcended sports world, dies at 74

Ali spoke out against racism, war and religious intolerance, while projecting an unshakeable confidence that became a model for African-Americans at the height of the civil rights era and beyond

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Muhammad Ali. Image source: Collider.com
  • Along with a fearsome reputation as a fighter, Ali spoke out against racism, war and religious intolerance
  • Ali, who had long suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome which impaired his speech
  • Ali was stripped of his world boxing crown for refusing to join the U.S. Army and fight in Vietnam

The death of Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight champion known as much for his political activism as his boxing brilliance, triggered a worldwide outpouring of affection and admiration for one of the best-known figures of the 20th century.

Ali, who had long suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome which impaired his speech and made the once-graceful athlete almost a prisoner in his own body, died on Friday, June 3 at age 74.

The cause of death was septic shock due to unspecified natural causes, a family spokesman said on Saturday, June 4. Ali was admitted to a Phoenix-area hospital, HonorHealth, with a respiratory ailment on Monday, May 30.

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“He’ll be remembered as a man of the world who spoke his mind and wasn’t afraid to take a chance and went out of his way to be a kind, benevolent individual that really changed the world,” the family spokesman, Bob Gunnell, said at a news conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Despite Ali’s failing health, his youthful proclamation that he was “the greatest” rang true until the end for millions of people around the world who respected him for his courage both inside and outside the ring.

President Jimmy Carter greets Muhammad Ali at a White House dinner, 1977. Image source: Wikipedia
President Jimmy Carter greets Muhammad Ali at a White House dinner, 1977. Image source: Wikipedia

Along with a fearsome reputation as a fighter, Ali spoke out against racism, war and religious intolerance, while projecting an unshakeable confidence that became a model for African-Americans at the height of the civil rights era and beyond.

Stripped of his world boxing crown for refusing to join the U.S. Army and fight in Vietnam,Ali returned in triumph by recapturing the title and starring in some of the sport’s most unforgettable bouts.

“I think when you talk about Muhammad Ali, as great an athlete, as great a boxer as he was, he was the greatest boxer of all time, he means so much more to the United Statesand the world,” said Ali’s long-time friend, boxing promoter Bob Arum.

"I'll leave you with one that I have hanging on my office wall, compliments of Nike: Impossible is nothing," Muhammad Ali. In photo- Michael Jordan vs Muhammad Ali (Image source: likesuccess.com)
“I’ll leave you with one that I have hanging on my office wall, compliments of Nike: Impossible is nothing,” Muhammad Ali. In photo- Michael Jordan vs Muhammad Ali (Image source: likesuccess.com)

“He was a transformative figure in our society.”

Bursting onto the boxing scene in the 1960s with a brashness that threatened many whites, Ali would come to be embraced by Americans of all races for his grace, integrity and disarming sense of humor.

“In the end, he went from being reviled to being revered,” civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson told CNN on Saturday.

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Pam Dorrough, a tourist in New York’s Times Square, admired Ali’s refusal to apologize for what he believed.

“The confidence – and I know everybody thought it was an arrogance about him – he always projected a confidence,” she said. “And he stood by that.”

President Barack Obama, the first African-American to reach the White House, said Ali was “a man who fought for us” and placed him in the pantheon of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela. (Reuters)

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New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

The health department's lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns — debunked by medical science — that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019.
A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019. VOA

Secret identities

The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.

The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.

In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine. Pixabay

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak.

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The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week. (VOA)