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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. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn't.
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.Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.'Ali shook up the world. Ali was admitted to an undisclosed hospital, presumably in Arizona, to be treated for what was initially thought to be a mild case of pneumonia.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. It later transpired that he was suffering from a urinary tract infection.
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. He will be remembered for his stunning victories over the likes of Sonny Liston, George Foreman in the famous 'Rumble in the Jungle', Joe Frazier in the 'Thrilla in Manila' and his gold medal victory at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.'I said a little prayer for the family that they could find peace and know that he is resting in a better place and there is no more pain,' Army instructor and Louisville resident Alvin Mason told ABC News.
He added: 'He leaves his legacy through his children, but also through people he doesn't know like me... I'm very appreciative of his family for sharing him with us and with the world.'Ali was on top for the early exchanges, but Frazier and his trademark left hook gave his nemesis' body such brutal attention in the middle rounds that The Greatest would later remark, 'It was the closest thing to death'.