Obama hails Ali as champion 'who fought for what was right'
President Barack Obama paid tribute Saturday to late boxing great Muhammad Ali, saying that he was a towering champion 'who fought for what was right' not just in the ring but outside it as well.
The former heavyweight champion, who passed away late Friday after struggling for years with Parkinson's, was 'a man who fought for us,' the US president said.
Boxing icon Muhammad Ali died on Friday, June 3, a family spokesman said in a statement. 'After a 32-year battle with Parkinsons disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74,' spokesman Bob Gunnell said.
'His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.'
Also Former US president Bill Clinton said on Saturday that he and his wife, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, were '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,' read a statement from the former president's office.
'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,' he said.
Ali was '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.'
Clinton said he was 'honored' to have awarded Ali the Presidential Citizens Medal at the White House in January 2001, just before leaving office.
'Through triumph and trials,' Clinton said, Ali 'became even greater than his legend.'
The 74-year-old sports hero, who had been battling Parkinson's disease for decades, DIED in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona where he had been admitted earlier suffering from respiratory problems.