According to most reports, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali is in the intensive care unit of a Phoenix hospital and near death. If the Miami Marlins are to be believed, he’s already passed away.
Muhammad Ali is 74-years-old, and he was admitted to the hospital on Thursday with a “respiratory issue,” says a spokesman for the family. As CNN reports, the boxing legend has largely kept out of the spotlight in recent years, but it is known that Muhammad Ali was hospitalized for health issues at least twice in the last couple of years.
In December, 2014, Ali was hospitalized with pneumonia and the following January he developed a urinary tract infection severe enough to require hospitalization, according to reports.
Muhammad Ali rose to fame as a youth for his boxing prowess. He was born Cassius Clay in 1942, and by the age of 12 he began boxing on the amateur circuit. He famously won the first of his three heavyweight boxing championship titles in 1964 when he knocked out the champion at the time, Sonny Liston. It was also in 1964 that Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam.
Muhammad Ali boxed professionally until 1981 when he retired for good. During his epic boxing career, Muhammad Ali took a three-and-a-half year “break” after in the 1960s. He had refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army and fight in the Vietnam War, ultimately being convicted of the serious crime of draft evasion for his refusal. That conviction was ultimately overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to being a three-time heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali was also well known for being a social activist before his health deteriorated so severely following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 1984.
While multiple reports of the Muhammad Ali’s grave condition have been circulating around the internet Friday, all credible reports indicate that the boxer is still clinging to life. The Miami Marlins apparently didn’t get that message, though, and they announced to all in attendance at a Friday night baseball game that Muhammad Ali had passed away today. At the end of the game, the team even displayed imagery on the scoreboard that included a photograph of Muhammad Ali as well as his dates of birth and death, reports Sports Illustrated.
Stunned fans stood and applauded in tribute to Ali after the announcement was made, even taking to social media afterward to share their condolences.
After the premature announcement of the death of the legendary Muhammad Ali, Marlins president David Sampson spoke to the media about the erroneous announcement, and his comments were not very heartening. According to the Miami Herald, Sampson said that the announcement made at the game concerning the death of Ali was not erroneous or premature at all, but rather the truth. Sampson says that the team’s management had been informed by someone close to Muhammad Ali that the aging boxing superstar has indeed passed away, and that the team wanted to make sure that it did the honorable thing by paying tribute to Ali as soon as possible.
“It was not an error. We were informed by someone close to the family that he had passed away. We wanted to get a tribute out as soon as we possibly could.”
The Muhammad Ali death announcement made by the Marlins took place at the end of their game against the New York Mets at about 10:05 p.m. local time Friday night. While the team president insists that the message was legit, based on accurate information and not a huge blunder or faux pas, no official announcement had been made by any of Muhammad Ali’s representatives or spokespeople regarding the three-time heavyweight champ actually passing away.
Muhammad Ali is a big part of the Marlins’ organization. He threw out the first pitch back in 2012 when Marlins Park first opened, and the park’s clubhouse features a plaque engraved with Muhammad Ali’s most famous quotes.
“He’s an important part of our organization. He opened our new ballpark. Being that he had thrown out the first pitch of this ballpark, and has a close relationship [with the Marlins], we wanted to honor him as quickly as possible. His legacy will live forever.”
Whether Muhammad Ali has passed away or is still struggling in a Phoenix hospital, he and his family are in the world’s thoughts and prayers tonight.
What do you think? Was it appropriate for the Miami Marlins to pay tribute to Muhammad Ali before the family has made and official announcement about his condition?
[Update: Muhammad Ali did, in fact, pass away in Scottsdale, Arizona, after 9 p.m. pacific time. Rest in peace, Champ.]
[Photo by Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]