News of 1970s boxing icon Muhammad Ali's impending death rocked the cyber world on Monday. However, his family immediately debunked the reports that that the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion has lost his power of speech and could be dead within days.
His daughter, May May, even showed pictures of Ali, 71, formerly known as Cassius Clay, watching the Super Bowl games. Ali has Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's being a degenerative ailment, speculations are always high for boxers diagnosed with the disease that they have succumbed, in the process opening a floodgate of good memories left by the champ.
More than his three heavyweight titles, Ali left a legacy in the boxing world which few boxers of his and later generations could match or surpass. Here are five of them.
1. Fight for his faith - After Clay won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston at the age of 22, he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964 and changed his name to Ali. In 1967, he refused to be conscripted to the U.S. military on the basis of his religious beliefs and opposition to the then ongoing Vietnam War. After he was found guilty of draft evasion, stripped of his boxing title and his boxing licence suspended, he appealed the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.
2. Bestselling Boxing Matches - Since his title bouts were held mostly in the 1970s, an era before cable TV, pay-per-view or the live streaming were invented, Ali's matches were crowd drawers. Almost 50 years later, he continues to be a hit as evidenced by his match with Rocky Marciano logging almost 5 million views in YouTube since it was posted five years ago.
3. Titles - Ali has been bestowed several titles such as The Greatest, Sportsman of the Century given by Sports Illustrated in 1999 and Sports Personality of the Century by BBC. His style of tiring out his opponents by punched and some flurries became known as the Rope-A-Dope, which he used to beat other boxing greats such as Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Joe Frazier. His match with Frazier was titled Thrilla in Manila held in 1975.
4. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee - That was his mantra in his bout with Liston, which he retained in his other fights. The line was even included in his hit song titled Black Superman.
5. Great name - Even before malls became popular, Ali already had a mall named after him called Ali Mall in Quezon City, Philippines, which was beside the Araneta Coliseum where he fought Frazier. In 1978, Walnut Street in Louisville, Kentucky, where he grew up, was renamed to Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Within a week, 12 of the 70 street signs were stolen, indicating people filched the sign as souvenirs.
However, for boxing fans interested in seeing more of Ali's other memorabilia, they can visit the $60-million Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville which opened in 2005. Whether alive of dead, Ali will loom in the boxing world as one of the greatest athletes the world has known.