Muhammad Ali, the three-time heavyweight champion boxer whose electrifying prowess in the ring and controversial outspokenness outside of it made him one of the world’s most recognizable personalities of the 20th Century, died Friday after a battle with a respiratory illness at a Phoenix hospital. He was 74.
Ali family spokesperson Bob Gunnell said Saturday that Ali’s funeral will take place in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., Friday and include a morning motorcade through the city, private burial at Cave Hill cemetery and a public memorial at the KFC Yum! Center.
Image: Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali.
Gunnell said that former President Bill Clinton, broadcaster Bryant Gumbel, and actor Billy Crystal will deliver the eulogies at the afternoon memorial which will be streamlined live around world.
The spokesman said Ali died of septic shock “due to unspecified natural causes.” He said the boxing legend died Friday at 9:10 p.m. local time, spending the last hour of his life surrounded by his family. He was initially hospitalized in the Phoenix area on Monday.
One of Ali’s daughters described her father’s last moments, saying his heart wouldn’t stop beating for 30 minutes after all of his other organs failed. Hana Ali wrote on Instagram that “no one had even seen anything like it.”
She said the family was surrounding Ali, hugging and kissing him, holding his hands and chanting an Islamic prayer while his heart kept beating as his other organs failed. She called it a “true testament to the strength of his spirit and will.”
“I think he will be remembered as a man of the world who spoke his mind and wasn’t afraid to take a chance and went out of his way to be a kind and benevolent individual who changed the world,” Gunnell said at a news conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Image: Muhammad Ali in good spirits after release from hospital before death.
Reaction to Ali’s death immediately poured in on Twitter early Saturday from former boxing champions to celebrities and politicians.
My heart is deeply saddened yet both appreciative and relieved that the greatest is now resting in the greatest place.
— Roy Jones Jr. (@RealRoyJonesJr) June 4, 2016
Ralph Ali, Frazier & Foreman we were 1 guy. A part of me slipped away, “The greatest piece”https://t.co/xVKOc9qtub
— George Foreman (@GeorgeForeman) June 4, 2016
— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) June 4, 2016
Muhammad Ali is dead at 74! A truly great champion and a wonderful guy. He will be missed by all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2016
RiP to the one and only Muhammad Ali, simply the best…
Prayers 🙏🏾 up to his family and friends
— Vince Carter (@mrvincecarter15) June 4, 2016
Ali!Ali!Ali! #RIP He told me “Hey Kight Rider you’re pretty, but not as pretty as me” The Greatests’ spirit will always be in my heart!
— David Hasselhoff (@DavidHasselhoff) June 4, 2016
Mohammad Ali was the first athlete I was truly inspired by. He was a true champion and forever a legend. RIP Muhammad Ali.
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) June 4, 2016
— Greg Stanton (@MayorStanton) June 4, 2016
— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) June 4, 2016
President Obama and the First Lady issued a statement saying that they mourned his passing, but are “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.”
Obama keeps a pair of boxing gloves worn by Ali in his private study near the Oval office.
Later Saturday afternoon, Obama called Ali’s wife, Yolanda “Lonnie” Ali to offer his condolences.
“The president expressed to Lonnie how fortunate he and the First Lady felt to have met Muhammad,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Jennifer Friedman said in a statement. “He recounted how special it was to have witnessed “The Champ” change the arc of history.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said all flags on municipal buildings will be lowered to half-staff Saturday in honor of Ali.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton called Ali a “true champion” in a statement posted on Twitter.
Bill and Hillary Clinton also released a joint statement on Ali’s passing.
“Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of Muhammad Ali. 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 statement read.
“We watched him grow from the brash self-confidence of youth and success into a manhood full of religious and political convictions that led him to make tough choices and live with the consequences. Along the way we saw him courageous in the ring, inspiring to the young, compassionate to those in need, and strong and good-humored in bearing the burden of his own health challenges.”