74-year-old boxing legend Muhammad Ali hospitalized with respiratory issue, in ‘fair’ condition

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali has been hospitalized with a respiratory issue, according to his spokesman.

Bob Gunnell said Thursday that Ali, who has long battle Parkinson’s Disease, is in ‘fair condition’ and being being treated by doctors in Phoenix, where he lives, as a precaution.

He declined to say in which hospital Ali is based or when he was admitted. However, he did say that Ali’s stay in hospital is expected to be ‘brief.’

‘He is being treated by his team of doctors and is in fair condition,’ Gunnell said. ‘A brief hospital stay is expected. At this time, the Muhammad Ali family respectfully requests privacy.’

The three-time world heavyweight boxing champion’s health has been fragile in recent years, but he has always succeeded in fighting back.

In January 2015 he was hospitalized with a urinary tract infection, and in late 2014 he was taken to hospital with pneumonia, but made a full recovery.

In February 2013, his brother Rahman Ali told The Washington Times that the boxing hero could be ‘dead within days’ – but of course he bounced back from that.

Ali has also long been fighting Parkinson’s Disease, early symptoms of which – including stuttering and trembling hands – began in 1979.

He retired from boxing in 1981 and devoted his life to social and humanitarian causes. In 2005 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.

And although his public appearances have diminished since then, Ali has remained active on his official Twitter channel, and has also spoken up on major issues of the day.

In December last year, Ali responded to Donald Trump’s remarks about banning Muslims from the U.S. with an open letter that asked for peace and understanding, rather than fear.

‘Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam,’ said Ali, who converted to Islam in 1964,

Talking about recent terror attacks, he added that politicians should ‘clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.’

That remark continued a long history of outspoken political activism by the ‘rope-a-dope’ champ, who nearly torpedoed his own career in 1966 when he refused to sign up the Vietnam War, saying ‘No Vietcong ever called me a n****.’

In 1990, he met with Saddam Hussein in Kuwait to negotiate the release of American hostages, and in 2011 appealed to Iran to release a pair of captive hikers.

Ali was last seen in public in April, when he attended a Celebrity Fight Night in Arizona – an event that supported, among others, Muhammad Ali Parksinon Center.

Fighter: Kentucky-born Ali picked up the gloves at the age of 12. Within six years he'd achieved an amateur record of 100 wins to five losses and took gold at the 1960 Olympic games. That same year he turned pro

Ali was born Cassius Clay Jr on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. His introduction to boxing began when he was just 12: Furious over the theft of his bike, he told a police officer he would ‘whup’ the thief.

That officer happened to be boxing coach Joe E. Martin, who told the young boy he should learn to box before he put up his fists – and that’s exactly what he did.

Over the next six years Clay won six Kentucky and two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics.

That same year he left behind an incredible amateur scorecard of 100 wins with five losses and took up the mantle as a professional.

His speed and strength quickly took him up the ladder, though his mouth was what caught the public’s attention.

With characteristic cockiness, he called New Yorker Doug Jones – then third in the world behind Clay and then-champ Sonny Liston – ‘an ugly little man’ and Jones’s home turf of Madison Square Garden as ‘too small for me’.

Though statements like that would become his trademark, they didn’t go down well at the time, and when Clay beat Jones in 1963 by unanimous vote, the ring was pelted with trash by the audience.

In 1964 Clay was gunning for Liston’s title, saying he would ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,’ while Liston was an ‘ugly bear’ who would be donated to the zoo after the match.

Though temporarily blinded by ointment used to seal Liston’s cuts – the first he’d ever had inflicted in the ring – Clay won in the seventh round by a TKO. At 22, he was the youngest-ever heavyweight champion.

The Greatest: Ali (seen here victorious over Sonny Liston in 1965) was a three-time world heavyweight boxing champ in his prime, but suffered a decline, particularly due to Parkinson's Disease, in the 1980s

It was after this match that Clay announced he had converted to Islam, given up what he called his ‘slave name’ and would in the future be known by a new moniker: Muhammad Ali.

Liston came back for the belt the next year, but was taken down in two minutes by Ali, who knocked him down with a blow so fast it was hard to see – a blow the press later called the ‘phantom punch.’

From 1967-1970, following an outcry at his refusal to sign up for the Vietnam War (Ali told press ‘No Vietcong ever called me a n****’), Ali found himself frozen out of the game, denied a boxing license, and stripped of his passport and – arguably worse – title.

During that time he spoke at colleges against the Vietnam War and in favor of racial justice and black pride – beginning an interest in advocacy that he would pursue in later years.

Finally, he was able to return to boxing with his draft evasion case still on appeal, and in 1971 he took on Joe Frazier in what was dubbed ‘The Fight of the Century.’

This was the first fight in which Ali introduced his ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy, leaning against the ropes to exhaust his opponent but ultimately lost in his first professional defeat. Three years later he took down Frazier by unanimous judges’ decision.

This was Ali in his prime: taking on George Foreman in Zaire in 1974 – a bout that would be termed ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ – he took down the fearsome boxer and reclaimed the world champ belt with a knockout.

Triumphant: Ali spars with challenger Floyd Patterson for the world heavyweight championship belt in 1965. Clay won in the 12th round with a technical knockout

In 1975 he faced off against Joe Frazier – the pair’s third fight – and left pro with swollen eyes in a TKO after 15 gruelling rounds.

When later asked if he’d watched recordings of the match, Ali said, ‘Why would I want to go back and see Hell?’ He also called Frazier ‘the greatest fighter of all times,’ but couldn’t resist adding, ‘next to me’.

This was undoubtedly his peak, and a decline followed: in 1976 he received blood clots in his legs after going up against Japanese wrestler and martial artist Antonio Inoki in a publicity stunt.

He toyed with retirement several times, coming back to the ring each time, but finally quit fro good after a 1980 fight against Larry Holmes.

Weakened by thyroid medication and already experiencing the tremors that signalled his Parkinson’s Disease, Ali lost to a knockout – the one time in his career that had happened, and only the fifth loss of his professional career.

Now well into his retirement, Ali continues to fight the good fight, continuing the advocacy that he began pursuing during the Vietnam years. He has put his name to philanthropic causes including UNICEF, BeatBullying and the Special Olympics.

In 2013, following a health scare, Ali’s brother told The Washington Post that Ali wanted his gravestone to say: ‘I tried to love somebody, I did try to feed the hungry. I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. The Greatest.’

Ali now lives with his wife Lonnie Williams at their home in Phoenix, Arizona.

Warrior: Even in his old age, suffering Parkinson's Disease, Ali (pictured in 2011) has not stopped fighting, supporting a number of causes including UNICEF, BeatBullying and Special Olympics

Source: The DailyMail

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