From his childhood friends in an American city long divided by segregation of the US President, the whole world was crying Mohamed Ali Saturday, saluting the memory of a legendary boxer to steel convictions that made history.
Leading figure of the twentieth century, on and off the rings, he died Friday at 74 in a Phoenix hospital in Arizona.
“Muhammad Ali was’ The Greatest ”. Period. “Barack Obama has reacted in a tribute.
From daybreak, residents of his hometown, Louisville, came Saturday to lay flowers in front of the small house of his childhood.
Not far away, the city mayor, Greg Fischer, presided over a ceremony of homage to 10 pm, saluting a “man of action and principle” who grew up in this city of Kentucky, marked in his youth by the segregation that still separated the United States from the Black White.
In silence, an honor guard then put the flags at half-mast.
“After a struggle of 32 years against Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74. The triple world champion heavyweight died in the evening, “announced spokesperson of the family, Bob Gunnell, Friday night.
A press conference is scheduled for Saturday in Phoenix to detail the progress of the funeral in Louisville, whose date has yet been given.
Mohamed Ali was hospitalized since Thursday to treat a respiratory problem in a clinic in Phoenix, where he had settled with his fourth wife Lonnie.
He suffered since the 80 Parkinson’s disease and had been hospitalized twice late 2014 and early 2015 for pneumonia and urinary tract infection.
A unique style
The announcement of his death immediately triggered a wave of emotion, the boxing world in saluting his memory unanimously.
“God picked her champion,” lamented Mike Tyson, one of his successors in the ring.
“We lost a giant,” said his part said the Filipino Manny Pacquiao, multiple world champion, just retired from the ring.
History has it that Cassius Clay, grand-son of a slave, will be put to boxing, child, in revenge for a kid who had stolen his bicycle.
And soon the impressive strength of his fists, he collects victories and titles, the Olympic champion in Rome in 1960, and WBA world champion in 1964 by defeating Sonny Liston by knockout in the 7th round.
The next day, he decided to change his name and called himself Cassius X in honor of the leader of “Black Muslims” Malcolm X. A month later, he converted to Islam and took the name Muhammad Ali.
With its unique style, often dangling arms along the body, he will retain his world title until 1967, when he refused to go to war in Vietnam.
“I have no problem with the Vietcong,” he had proclaimed February 17, 1966.
He escapes prison but is forbidden to ring, reviled by a majority of the American public but held by others as a pillar of the against-culture and a champion of the cause of blacks who then fight for the equal rights.
“I measure 2.18 m perhaps, but I have never felt so great when I was in his shadow,” said the basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, recalling that “Mohamed had voluntarily sacrificed the best years of his career and fought for what he believed was right. ”
Stripped of his titles, banned from boxing for three and a half years, he becomes world champion in 1974, reuniting the WBA and WBC titles when he won by KO (8th round) over George Foreman in the legendary “Rumble in the jungle “in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo).
“Part of me is gone, much,” said Foreman.
This fight, as media that spectacular in its organization and conduct, marked the peak of his career. It was during the preparation of this duel he had dropped one of his most memorable speeches: “I fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his fists [Foreman] can not touch what his eyes do not see. ”
He then lost his title by points against Leon Spinks February 15, 1978 and recovered by taking revenge 15 September of the same year.
“As Martin Luther King”
Retired in 1979, he was forced to hand over the gloves two years later, at 39, not having been able to manage his fortune.
This is the fight too. In October 1981, he was sadly humiliated by his compatriot Larry Holmes, too strong for him (abandonment, 11 recovery).
“It was one of the toughest fights I had to do, to fight against a guy that I liked,” testified Larry Holmes Saturday.
Ali is no longer “the greatest” but he persists. In December of the same year, a loss to Trevor Berbick will be his last fight.
After 56 victories in 61 fights, including 22 world championships and 37 before the limit, Ali hangs up the gloves for good.
In 1996 he appears, ill and weakened by Parkinson’s disease, during the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics where, trembling, he had hardly lit the Olympic cauldron.
In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Former US President Bill Clinton said he was honored to be his friend.
Barack Obama praised him in a moving post its role in the fight for civil rights: “It was alongside [Martin Luther] King and [Nelson] Mandela, he stood when it was hard, he spoke when others did not do so. ”
Stressing that he kept a pair of his boxing gloves and a picture of him in his personal office, right next to the Oval Office, the US president praised his unconventional path.
His public appearances were increasingly rare, the last dating back to April in Phoenix during a charity dinner to raise funds for research against Parkinson’s disease.
“He [God)] gave me Parkinson’s disease to show me that I was a man like any other, I had weaknesses like everyone else. That is all I am a man “, said the boxer in 1987.
“Mohamed Ali will never die,” he assured Don King, promoter of the “Rumble in the Jungle.” “He’s like Martin Luther King. His spirit will live forever. ”
The death of Mohamed Ali reacted planet
Main reactions to the death of former world champion heavyweight Muhammad Ali Friday at the age of 74.
George Foreman, former heavyweight world champion, beaten by Ali in one of the most famous battles in history “The Rumble in the Jungle” (on his Twitter account): “Ali, Frazier and Foreman, we were not doing one. A part of me is gone, much. ”
Mike Tyson, former world champion heavyweight (on his Twitter account): “God picked her champion, farewell to the greatest @MuhammadAli thegreatest RIP.”
Floyd Mayweather, a former welterweight champion, unbeaten in 49 fights, and recently retired: “We lost a legend, a hero and a great man. It is one of those who opened the way for me to make me who I am. Words are inadequate to say what Muhammad Ali did for the sport. Personally, he showed me was that we must never be afraid, never stop believing and never settle for less. ”
Evander Holyfield, former heavyweight world champion: “It’s a huge loss. I wanted to be like him, it inspired me […] We once asked me if I wanted to beat his record [Ali won a world heavyweight title three times, Ed] and I said no because it meant that I had to lose, but to come back from a defeat, we must be even stronger and that is what Ali has shown throughout his career. ”
Don King, promoter of the “Rumble in the Jungle”: “It was a wonderful person, not just as a boxer but as a human being, as an icon. Mohamed Ali will never die, it’s like Martin Luther King. His spirit will live forever. ”
Oscar de la Hoya, former champion in six different categories, now promoter: “He is the one that propelled boxing in its heyday and made popular sport. Ali embodied courage, he never chose the easy, either on the boxing rings and outside. As we celebrate his life, he must remember that he always sought greatness in everything he did. ”
Bob Arum, promoter Boxing: “It is no doubt the person who has most transformed our time, it was a great sportsman, someone who knew how to understand, to be heard, which said top and clear what he thought was right. ”
Manny Pacquiao, Filipino boxing legend and recently retired: “We lost a giant, boxing has benefited greatly from the talents of Mohamed Ali, but not as much as men of his humanity.”
Lennox Lewis, former world champion heavyweight (on his Twitter account): “A giant among men, Ali has shown great in his talent, his courage and his convictions, to the point that most of us do will never be able to truly understand. RIPAli. ”
Barry McGuigan, former world champion feathers: “Today we have lost the greatest athlete who ever lived RIPMohamedAli.”
Larry Holmes, former world champion heavyweight, former training partner and winner of Mohamed Ali in 1980 (CNN): “He always treated me well. The first time I went to see him, I had no equipment. He gave me his boxing shoes, gloves, shorts, his wrists bands, and said, ‘here is your equipment.’ ‘ And so we became friends. […] [On his victory against Ali] It was one of the toughest fights I’ve had to do, to fight against a guy I liked. […] I understand the reason why he wanted to fight me, it was for the money. It would take 10 million. But he wanted to fight and win. […] It was a sad day. After beating him, I went into the dressing room and I told him that I loved him. He said, ” so why did you cry for joy like that? ” He always had something to say. ”
Barack Obama, US President: “His fight outside the ring cost him his title, earned him many enemies. But Ali stood firm. ”
Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, “Hillary [his wife, a candidate for the White House] and I are deeply saddened by the death of Mohamed Ali. […] We have seen grow from the insurance impetuous youth and success to adulthood full of religion and political beliefs that led him to make hard choices and assume the consequences. […] On the way we saw courage in the ring, provide a model for young people, full of compassion for those in need, and strong and humorous side to his health problems. ”
Donald Trump, Republican candidate for the White House (on his Twitter account), “Mohamed Ali died at 74 years! A true champion and a great man, he will be missed. ”
David Cameron, British Prime Minister, “Mohamed Ali was not only a champion in the ring – he was also a champion of civil rights and a role model for so many people.”
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, founded by former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013: “Ali was a legend, both as an athlete and as a public figure determined to make sacrifices for his beliefs [ …] Nelson Mandela who enjoyed boxing, Ali looked like his hero in boxing. Madiba had great respect for his heritage and spoke of his achievements with great admiration, “responded Sello Hatang, President of the Foundation.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a former player for the Los Angeles Lakers, leading scorer in NBA history, “At a time when blacks who stood against injustice were treated arrogant and often arrested, Mohamed willingly sacrificed the best years of his career and fought for what he believed was right. By doing this, he did grow all Americans, blacks and whites. I measure 2.18 m perhaps, but I have never felt so great when I was in his shadow. ”
David Beckham, former soccer player: “The Biggest always will be … the strongest and best … Rest in peace.”
Ringo Starr, former drummer of the Beatles: “God bless Muhammad Ali, peace and love to all his family.”
Madonna, artist: “This man. This king. This hero. This human! I do not have the words. It shook the world! God bless him.”
Snoop Dogg, American rapper: “The people’s champion. My hero.”
Justin Bieber, artist, accompanying his message with a photo of Ali playing Monopoly: “This is the ALI we should all remember! The funny and loving man who was completely himself !! RIP CHAMPION !!! ”