SAN FRANCISCO, United States, June 4 – Muhammad Ali was remembered in tributes worldwide for his iconic fight for social justice as well as his legendary boxing battles following his death Friday at age 74.
“We lost a giant today,” Filipino fighter Manny Pacquiao said. “Boxing benefitted from Muhammad Ali’s talents but not as much as mankind benefitted from his humanity.”
George Foreman, Ali’s most famous knockout victim from the Rumble in the Jungle, noted Ali and his other main rival, Joe Frazier, in tweeting: “Ali, Frazier and Foreman we were 1 guy. A part of me slipped away, The greatest piece.”
The front page headline on Ali’s hometown newspaper, the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, simply said, “The Greatest” with a photo of Ali in the ring.
Ali spoke out for African-American civil rights in the 1960s, carrying on his fight against injustice and sacrificing the prime years of his own career in the process.
“He is, without a question in my mind, the most transformative person of our time,” boxing promoter Bob Arum said.
Ali, born Cassius Clay, beat Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavyweight title but was stripped of his titles in 1967 when he refused to join the US Army and fight in the Vietnam War. He was banned from boxing until 1970, and in 1971 the US Supreme Court ruled in his favor in sitting out the war.
“When people saw what he had done for what he believed in, threw away 3 1/2 years of his career and he remained steadfast, he came through all of that bigger and more important than ever before,” Arum said.
“People looked at him and said there was something special about him. Any man willing to make that kind of sacrifice for his beliefs had to be respected.”
– Ali’s spirit ‘will never die’ –
Boxing began mourning its greatest hero with ultimate praise.
“We lost a legend, a hero and a great man,” said Floyd Mayweather, who retired last year as an unbeaten welterweight champion. “He’s one of the guys who paved the way for me to be where I’m at. Words can’t explain what Muhammad Ali did for the sport.”
Former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson tweeted: “God came for his champion. So long great one. @MuhammadAli TheGreatest RIP.”
Four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield said he idolized Ali.
“It’s a great loss. I wanted to be like Ali. He inspired me,” Holyfield said. “Someone asked me if I wanted to break his record (as a three-time champion) and I said no because that means I have to lose. But you find out you have to be stronger to get up from a loss to go on. And that’s what Ali proved.”
Don King, who promoted the Rumble in the Jungle, said Ali will live on forever alongside other US civil rights heroes.
“He was tremendous, not just a boxer, a great human being, an icon,” King said. “Muhammad Ali’s spirit, like Martin Luther King Jr., will live on. That’s why Muhammad Ali will never die.”
Chinese boxer Zou Shiming expressed his sorrow on social network Weibo, saying: “Why has his life been cut away? I still want to follow his path, I still wish I can one day win the championship and find the opportunity to pay homage to him. From now on, what a pity we won’t see him again.”
Australian boxer Danny Green tweeted of Ali: “He was responsible for bringing the great sport of boxing to the masses. He captured the imagination of everyone.”
India Olympic bronze medalist and now pro boxer Vijender Singh called Ali’s death “a great loss.” “He is a legend who inspired me. There will be no other like Ali. He was the one and the only. But we will always keep learning from his boxing.”
“I definitely feel the loss after his death. He’s a legend around the world, a boxer everyone adored who made boxing interesting,” retired Indonesian boxing star Chris John told AFP on Ali’s passing.
US retired fighter and promoter Oscar de la Hoya praised Ali as “the fighter who ushered in the golden era of boxing and put the sport on the map.”
“Ali exemplified courage. He never took the easy route, something to be admired in and outside of the ring. As we reflect on his life, let us remember a man who pursued greatness in everything he did and be inspired to hold ourselves to that same standard.”
“The world has lost a monumental, unforgettable figure,” said Harry Reid, a US Senator from boxing-haven Nevada and a fighter in his younger days.
“He fought and won inside the ring and fought for equality and justice outside the ring. Ali taught us all about the value of hard work, tenacity and never giving up. There has never been anyone like Muhammad Ali and there never will be again.”
US presidential candidate Donald Trump also joined the chorus. “Muhammad Ali is dead at 74!” he wrote on Twitter. “A truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all!”