PHOENIX — Boxing legend Muhammad Ali died Friday in a Phoenix-area hospital. He was 74.
“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” according to family spokesperson Bob Gunnell.
Ali was first hospitalized on Thursday. The boxing great was fighting respiratory issues that were complicated by the Parkinson’s that he was diagnosed with in the 1980s.
He was originally expected to have a short stay in the hospital.
Ali has been hospitalized several times in recent years, most recently in early 2015 when he was treated for a severe urinary tract infection initially diagnosed as pneumonia.
Ali has looked increasingly frail in public appearances, including April 9 when he wore sunglasses and was hunched over at the annual Celebrity Fight Night dinner in Phoenix, which raises funds for treatment of Parkinson’s.
His last formal public appearance before that was in October when he appeared at the Sports Illustrated Tribute to Muhammad Ali at The Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, along with former opponents George Foreman and Larry Holmes.
Ali has suffered from Parkinson’s for three decades, most famously trembling badly while lighting the Olympic torch in 1996 in Atlanta. Despite the disease he kept up a busy appearance schedule until recently, though he has not spoken in public for years.
Doctors said the Parkinson’s likely was caused by the thousands of punches Ali took during a career in which he traveled the world for big fights.
An iconic figure who at one point was perhaps the most recognized person in the world, Ali has lived quietly in the Phoenix area with his fourth wife, Lonnie, whom he married in 1986.
News of his hospitalization brought well wishes from boxers and others on Twitter, including Sugar Ray Leonard, who modeled his career after Ali’s.
“Prayers & blessings to my idol, my friend, & without question, the Greatest of All Time @MuhammadAli ! #GOAT,” Leonard wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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