The man widely regarded as possibly the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, has died at the age of 74.
The former three-time world heavyweight boxing champion died at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix, Arizona, after being admitted on Thursday.
He was suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ali shot to fame by winning light-heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Nicknamed “The Greatest”, the American beat Sonny Liston in 1964 to win his first world title and became the first boxer to capture a world heavyweight title on three separate occasions.
He eventually retired in 1981, having won 56 of his 61 fights.
Crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC, Ali was noted for his pre- and post-fight talk and bold fight predictions just as much as his boxing skills inside the ring.
But he was also a civil rights campaigner and poet who transcended the bounds of sport, race and nationality.
American Muslim theologian Yasir Qadhi paid tribute to Ali shortly before his death.
He said: “There is no denying that Muhammad Ali is the most famous and influential American Muslim, ever. It is doubtful that anyone will replace that status for the foreseeable future. If the only good that he brought was to bring a positive image of Islam, and to spread the name of our beloved Prophet (SAW) in every household and on every tongue in the world, it is a life that is indeed enviable.
“But in addition to that, he has had a stellar career as the single greatest athlete, of all times. As well, he was an icon of positive political activism, and of preaching truth to power. His court case about refusing the draft for Vietnam was fought all the way to the Supreme Court, which he eventually won.
“He converted to what he thought was Islam at a time when Islam was an unknown religion; then he became Sunni after Malcolm X introduced him to mainstream Islam, and he’s been a proud and public Muslim ever since.
“If that wasn’t enough, he is one of the most eloquent and poetic star athletes that the world has ever seen. His quotes, like his medals and awards, are legendary (my personal favorite is: ‘The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.’)
“We must all go eventually, and Muhammad Ali has lived a good life. Yet still, the heart is saddened and the eyes are sad to see a living legend go before our eyes. Whenever it is his time to go, I pray that Allah eases his suffering, grants him a dignified death, accepts the good that he has done, and overlooks his mistakes.”