He was fast of fist and foot—lip, too—a heavyweight champion who promised to shock the world and did. He floated. He stung. Mostly he thrilled, even after the punches had taken their toll and his voice barely rose above a whisper. He was The Greatest. Muhammad Ali died Friday at age 74, according to a statement from the family. He was hospitalized in the Phoenix area with respiratory problems earlier this week, and his children had flown in from around the country. A funeral will be held Wednesday in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The city plans a memorial service Saturday, the AP reports.
"It's a sad day for life, man. I loved Muhammad Ali, he was my friend. Ali will never die," Don King, who promoted some of Ali's biggest fights, told the AP. "Like Martin Luther King his spirit will live on, he stood for the world." With a wit as sharp as the punches he used to "whup" opponents, Ali dominated sports for two decades before time and Parkinson's Syndrome, triggered by thousands of blows to the head, ravaged his magnificent body, muted his majestic voice, and ended his storied career in 1981. "He was the greatest fighter of all time but his boxing career is secondary to his contribution to the world," promoter Bob Arum told the AP. "He's the most transforming figure of my time certainly. He did more to change race relations and the views of people than even Martin Luther King." Click for much more on Ali's legacy. (Read more Muhammad Ali stories.)