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Muhammad Ali dies at age 74

The former world heavyweight champion leaves behind a legacy few if any can match.

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Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Muhammad Ali, know to boxing fans around the world as "The Greatest," has died at the age of 74.

A true sports and cultural icon around the globe, Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, the town that would give him one of his many nicknames: "The Louisville Lip." Not just a great fighter but also a spectacular entertainer and showman, Clay won the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, and in 1964, at age 22, shocked the world when he knocked out Sonny Liston, who was heavily favored, to become the world heavyweight champion.

Clay joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. He was defiant and controversial outside of the ring, refusing to join the United States military and be drafted into service during the Vietnam War, of which he was a vocal opponent. He lost three prime years of his boxing career, but returned in 1970.

In 1971, he faced "Smokin'" Joe Frazier in the first of three fights, a truly momentous sporting event which, relative to its era, blows recent "super-fights" -- even Mayweather vs Pacquiao -- out of the water for cultural importance and relevance. Frazier won that fight, with Ali winning a rematch in 1974, as well as their legendarily savage third fight in 1975.

In 1974, after beating Frazier in the rematch, he faced the monstrous young George Foreman, and knocked him out in eight rounds in the Fight of the Year, utilizing the now famous "rope-a-dope" strategy.

He first retired from boxing in 1979, following a pair of fights with Leon Spinks in 1978, losing the first and winning the rematch. Ali made an ill-advised comeback in 1980 to face heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, who dominated Ali until the fight was mercifully stopped after 10 rounds. Ali fought once more in late 1981, losing a decision to Trevor Berbick.

Ali, who had developed a stutter and was showing signs of being a "shot" fighter before he retired, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984.

He passed away on Friday, June 3, 2016, after entering the hospital in Phoenix the day before due to a respiratory condition. Early reports were that he was in fair condition, but the reports worsened quickly, before it was announced that the legendary Muhammad Ali had passed away.

There are really no words for a moment like this one. Muhammad Ali was bigger than boxing, bigger than sports, and yet at the heart of who he was, he was a fighter, plain and simple. He was rather unlike anyone before him, and though there have been attempts by many to capture that same sort of electricity and energy, no one since has really matched what Ali brought to the game, and it is frankly unlikely that we will see anyone come along who can.

Our thoughts and best wishes are with the loved ones of "The Greatest," Mr. Muhammad Ali.

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