Boxing fans pay tribute to late Muhammad Ali

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Scottsdale, Arizona (U.S.)  –  As the world mourn former world heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, one of his contemporaries, George Foreman, says “Ali will never die’’.

“It’s a sad day for life, man. I loved Muhammad Ali, he was my friend.

“Ali will never die.

“Like Martin Luther King his spirit will live on, he stood for the world.” Said Don King, who promoted many of Ali’s fights, including the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle’’ in Zaire.

“Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest human beings I have ever met,” said George Foreman, who lost to Ali in Zaire in a classic 1974 bout known as the “Rumble in Jungle.”

“No doubt he was one of the best people to have lived in this day and age.

“To put him as a boxer is an injustice,’’ Foreman said.

A construction worker, Delson Dez, 28, said of the late boxer whose record-setting boxing career, flair for showmanship and political stands made him one of the best-known figures of the 20th century: “We lost an icon’’.

The construction worker, who was holding up a poster of the fighter in Scottsdale, Arizona soon after Ali’s death was confirmed by his family late Friday evening, said: “His taunts could be brutal.

“He talked trash but he backed it up’’.

“We lost a giant today. Boxing benefited from Muhammad Ali’s talents but not nearly as much as mankind benefited from his humanity,’’ said Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquaio hails from Philippines, where Ali fought archrival Joe Frazier for a third time in a brutal 1975 match dubbed the “Thrilla in Manila.’’

“There will never be another Muhammad Ali.

“The black community all around the world, black people all around the world, needed him.

“He was the voice for us. He’s the voice for me to be where I’m at today,’’ said Floyd Mayweather, world champion boxer across five divisions.

Ali, who had long suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome, died a day after he was admitted to a Phoenix-area hospital with a respiratory ailment.

Even so, Ali’s youthful proclamation of himself as “the greatest” rang true until the end for the millions of people worldwide who admired him for his courage; both inside and outside the ring.

Few could argue with his athletic prowess at his peak in the 1960s.

With his dancing feet and quick fists, he could – as he put it – float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

During and after his championship reign, Ali met scores of world leaders and for a time he was considered the most recognisable person on earth, known even in remote villages far from the U.S.

Ali’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s came about three years after he retired from boxing in 1981.

In a realm where athletes often battle inarticulateness as well as their opponents, Ali was known as the “Louisville Lip” and loved to talk,

Ali enjoyed a popularity that transcended the world of sports, even though he rarely appeared in public in his later years.

“Joe Frazier is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head,’’ he once said.

He also dubbed Frazier a “gorilla’’ but later apologised and said it was all to promote the fight.

Once asked about his preferred legacy, Ali said: “I would like 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 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 was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on Jan. 17, 1942, as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., a name shared with a 19th century slavery abolitionist.

He changed his name after his conversion to Islam.

Ali is survived by his wife, the former Lonnie Williams, who knew him when she was a child in Louisville, along with his nine children. (Reuters/NAN)