Community

Muhammad Ali — boxer, humanitarian and “The Greatest of All time” — died Friday night at a Phoenix hospital after battling respiratory issues. He was 74.

Ali was a Louisville native. Reactions to his death are pouring in from around the city and state.

Mayor Greg Fischer issued a statement early Saturday morning:

“The values of hard work, conviction and compassion that Muhammad Ali developed while growing up in Louisville helped him become a global icon. As a boxer, he became The Greatest, though his most lasting victories happened outside the ring. Muhammad leveraged his fame as a platform to promote peace, justice and humanitarian efforts around the world, while always keeping strong ties to his hometown. Today, Muhammad Ali’s fellow Louisvillians join the billions whose lives he touched worldwide in mourning his passing, celebrating his legacy, and committing to continue his fight to spread love and hope.

“To honor Muhammad’s life and work, flags City Hall and Metro Hall and all city government buildings will be lowered to half-staff at 10 a.m. tomorrow and will remain at half-staff until he has been laid to rest. Thank you, Muhammad, for all you’ve given your city, your country and the world.”

President Obama:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky:

“Elaine and I were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Muhammad Ali, one of the preeminent and most beloved athletes of the 20th century. Inside the ring, he was graceful on his feet and packed a powerful punch. Outside the ring, he thrilled us with his exuberance for life. He was more than just a boxer. He was The Greatest. His life story is an American story, and it’s a story that began in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali grew up in Louisville. He fought his first professional fight there. And Louisville is now the site of the Muhammad Ali Center, which will continue his legacy and preserve his life story for all to experience. Our thoughts are with the Ali family and the dedicated staff at the Ali Center in this time of grief.”

Gov. Matt Bevin:

Congressman John Yarmuth’s statement, issued late Friday night:

“The word champion has never fit a man better. Muhammad Ali was a champion for peace, a champion for justice, and a champion for equality. He was a man who gained fame in a violent game, but immortality as a gentle and caring soul. In the ring, there was no one better, but his contributions to humanity managed to eclipse his boxing prowess.

“I remember watching every one of his championship fights. I remember waiting for him at Standiford Field when he returned home after beating Liston, thinking to myself that I had never seen a more perfect human being. And I remember the loud-mouthed speedster by the name of Cassius Marcellus Clay, whose fights in and out of the ring would one day make him Muhammad Ali—a selfless giant who put principles over everything and never forgot the city he called home.

“I am just one of the many in Louisville whose heart aches for the loss of my friend, and yet, every corner of our community is better for his impact. At a time when fame so often comes with questionable character, Muhammad Ali is an ever present reminder that the most famous person in the world can be a real life hero. He really was the greatest.”

University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari:

 

Actor and Parkinson’s activist Michael J. Fox:

Donald Lassere, president and CEO, Muhammad Ali Center:

“On behalf everyone associated with the Muhammad Ali Center and everyone in the Louisville community who loved Muhammad, we want to express our deepest sympathies to his wife, Lonnie, and Muhammad’s entire family.

“His wife, Lonnie once said, that Muhammad belongs to the world. He was the People’s Champion, one of the most recognized and beloved individuals on the face of the earth, co-founder of the Muhammad Ali Center, and an inspiration to all. He will be remembered for his love for all people, his athleticism, humanitarian deeds, social justice, and perhaps mostly… his courage in and outside of the ring.

“The Muhammad Ali Center was created to help preserve and share the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali. If you would like to express your condolences, your personal stories, or to help celebrate Muhammad’s life, please come to the Ali Center today.”

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History:

JCPS Superintendent and Ali Center Board member Dr. Donna Hargens:

“It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Muhammad Ali. Ali was a proud graduate of Central High School and in his younger years, he would often stop by our schools to eat lunch with students, shadow box, perform magic tricks and encourage our students to follow a path to greatness. Ali and JCPS share a vision of excellence and equity, and we will continue to be inspired by his example.”

Bellarmine women’s basketball coach Chancellor Dugan:

U of L president James Ramsey:

“It was an honor to share the stage with Muhammad at our Grawemeyer Spirit Award event. He was an inspiration to me and to everyone around the world. His message of peace and understanding is something for all of us to emulate. He will be forever missed but forever remembered.”

U of L men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino:

“All of Louisville celebrates the life of our Champion. He shined brightest in the ring and preached peace outside of it. He loved babies, people and cherished his friends. We will miss you Champ. Rest in Peace.”

U of L athletics director Tom Jurich:

“All of us in the Cardinal Athletics family are deeply, deeply saddened with the passing of an absolute worldwide legend in Muhammad. While he was undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes in history, the Champ made a difference in the lives of so many around the world. His generosity with his time for anything we asked of him — or things he offered to do without us asking — was incredible, as was the financial commitment he and Lonnie made to our baseball program at UofL. It was a true honor for me to know him and he will be greatly missed. Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to Lonnie and the entire family.”