SHAFAQNA- People from across the world, especially in Vietnam where he refused to be drafted for a US war, are mourning the death of boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, who passed away at the age of 74 late on Friday.
Tributes rolled in from around the world of sports, entertainment and politics just hours after the three-time heavyweight boxing champion died at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix, Arizona.
Ali had been suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
“I think millions of boxing lovers around the world would feel empty losing a legend like him. There will be a very long time until there will be another legend such as Muhammad Ali, a legend that embraced peace,” said Vietnamese boxing coach Nguyen Van Hieu.
“Everybody knew that the Vietnam war was a nonsense war. I read his bio and have much respect for him knowing he decided to give up his title and face jail time refusing to take part in that war.”
Ali defied the military draft at the height of the Vietnam War and lost three and a half years from the prime of his career.
A spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Ali was “far more than a legendary boxer; he was a world champion for equality and peace. With an incomparable combination of principle, charm, wit and grace, he fought for a better world and used his platform to help lift up humanity.”
In a statement, the head of the Nelson Mandela Foundation said the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South African president regarded Ali as his boxing hero.
“Nelson Mandela, a boxing enthusiast most of his life, acknowledged Ali as his boxing hero. Madiba had great respect for his legacy and spoke with admiration of Ali’s achievements,” said Sello Hatang, the foundation’s CEO.
US President Barack Obama said Ali “shook up the world and the world is better for it.”
Obama likened Ali to other civil rights leaders of his era, and said the boxer stood with Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela in fighting for what was right.
Former US President Bill Clinton described Ali’s talent as “a blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again.”
“From the day he claimed the Olympic gold medal in 1960, boxing fans across the world knew they were seeing a blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again,” the 42nd US president tweeted.
Fellow boxers Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Roy Jones, Jr., were also among the first to tweet about the loss of their friend.
Tyson wrote, “God came for his champion. So long great one.”
Mayweather wrote on Instagram, “Today my heart goes out to a pioneer, a true legend, and a hero by all means!”
Jones tweeted, “My heart is deeply saddened yet both appreciative and relieved that the greatest is now resting in the greatest place,” and posted a photo of Ali on his Facebook page, as well.
British boxer Amir Khan paid tribute to Ali in a video message, saying “Muhammad Ali was my hero. I’m so happy that I got to meet the guy.
Brazilian football legend Pele also paid tribute to the boxing titan on Tweeter, saying, “The sporting universe has just suffered a big loss. Muhammad Ali was my friend, my idol, my hero.”
Ali’s funeral will take place in his home town of Louisville, Kentucky.
Ali was born in Louisville as Cassius Clay in January 1942. He began boxing when he was 12 years old and became heavyweight champion in 1964, the year he converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay.
He proceeded to win the heavyweight title twice more before retiring from boxing in 1981.
Generally referred to as one of the greatest boxing heavyweights of all time, Ali was known for his highly unusual fighting style which involved dazzling speed, lightning-fast reflexes and constant movement around his opponents.