World mourns death of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali
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Tributes to Muhammad Ali poured in from around world after the legendary figure died at age 74 on Friday.

From Janet Evans, who passed the Olympic Flame to Ali to conclude the 1996 Atlanta Olympic torch relay:

“Muhammad Ali was truly the greatest — an athlete who transcended sports to become a global icon. He inspired me, and millions of others around the world, to be the best version of ourselves. Passing the Olympic torch to Muhammad to light the cauldron at the Atlanta Games in 1996 was the defining moment of my career, and a memory I will treasure forever, as much as any of the medals I won. As Olympians, our role is to inspire others to achieve their dreams, and no person has ever lived that role more than Muhammad Ali. On behalf of all of us at LA 2024, we offer our deepest condolences to Muhammad’s family and friends. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy will forever endure.”

From U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun:

“The USOC is deeply saddened to hear that the sports world has lost one of its most iconic figures in Muhammad Ali. As we reflect on his accomplishments and victories, we are proud to call Ali not only a member of Team USA, but an Olympic champion. With unparalleled grit and determination, he left a legacy that will continue to inspire generations of Americans for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

From U.S. President Barack Obama:

“Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d ‘handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.’

But what made The Champ the greatest — what truly separated him from everyone else — is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing.

Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.

In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him — the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston. I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was — still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.

‘I am America,’ he once declared. ‘I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me — black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.’

That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age — not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes – maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.

Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.”

From boxer Manny Pacquiao:

“We lost a giant today. Boxing benefitted from Muhammad Ali’s talents but not nearly as much as mankind benefitted from his humanity.”

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VIDEO: Janet Evans relives 1996 Olympic torch handoff to Muhammad Ali