Breaking news update, posted at 9:30 p.m. PT
Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer who proclaimed himself “The Greatest” and was among the most famous and beloved athletes on the planet, died Friday surrounded by his family at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, a family spokesman said.
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Previous update posted at 9:00 p.m. PT
A daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali said Friday that her “number one priority is her father’s well-being” after he was hospitalized in Phoenix for what his family said was a respiratory issue.
Laila Ali “truly appreciates the outpouring of love for her family, as she spends quality time with her dad,” a statement issued by her business manager said.
The daughter’s statement came on a night that Reuters, citing a source close to the family, reported that Muhammad Ali, 74, is close to death. He was hospitalized on Thursday.
The boxing legend, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, was hospitalized in January 2015 with a urinary tract infection. He was hospitalized in December 2014 with pneumonia.
Former six-time world champion Sugar Ray Leonard tweeted: “Prayers & blessings to my idol, my friend, & without question, the Greatest of All Time @MuhammadAli ! #GOAT
Actor Liev Schreiber, the voice of many documentaries including “Ali-Frazier I: One Nation… Divisible” wrote online, “Thinking about the greatest tonight(.) Hoping he is on the mend and surrounded by loved ones #MuhammadAli @MuhammadAli.”
In recent years, Ali had largely stayed out of the public spotlight. He once was known not only for his athletic prowess as a three-time heavyweight champion but also for his social activism.
Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky, as Cassius Clay in January 1942. He began boxing as an amateur when he was 12 years old and in 1964 became heavyweight champion with a knockout of Sonny Liston. That year he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name.
In April 1967, as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, Ali refused induction into the U.S. Army. The World Boxing Association then stripped him of his world title. On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted in federal court of violating Selective Service laws and sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000.
The Supreme Court overturned the conviction.
He went on to win the heavyweight title twice more before retiring for good in 1981.
In 1990, Ali met with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad to attempt to negotiate the release of Americans held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait. Additionally, in 2011, Ali publicly appealed to Iranian officials for the release of captive hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal.
One of the most powerful images of Ali came in 1996, when he lit the torch at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
In 2005, Ali was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.