By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — The boxing world, still a vital part of the Americana sports scenery back in the 1960s and into the 70s, never saw anyone like him. He was big and he moved with the speed and smoothness of someone 100 pounds lighter.READ MORE: Several People Injured After Tree Falls During West Philadelphia High School Reunion Party At Fairmount Park
That was the gift in the ring Muhammad Ali provided for those who saw him in his prime.
Outside the ring, he went from a reviled figure to someone that was actually ahead of his time in his public disdain for the Vietnam War and his stance against it.
On Friday, “The Greatest” died.
Here is what some of boxing’s greatest associated with the sport said:
“My heart goes out to a pioneer, a true legend, and a hero by all means! Not a day went by entering the gym that I didn’t think of you. Your charisma, your charm and above all, your class are all of the elements that will be greatly missed by myself and the world. You are someone that inspired me greatly throughout my boxing journey and words cannot express how great you were as a person! Thank you for everything you’ve done for Black America, in the world of sports & entertainment and for the legacy you leave behind! My sincerest condolences to the Ali family!
Oscar De La Hoya
“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of the Greatest of All Time – Muhammad Ali. I send my deepest condolences to his family, and pray for strength and peace for them during this difficult time.READ MORE: Encampment Outside University City Townhomes Refuses To Budge, Despite Court Order Demanding Them To Move Out
“Muhammad Ali is a legend and one of the world’s most celebrated athletes, the fighter who ushered in the golden era of boxing and put the sport on the map. He paved the way for professional fighters, including myself, elevating boxing to become a sport watched in millions of households around the world.
“Ali’s talent was undeniable – he was an Olympic Gold Medalist, three-time lineal world heavyweight champion, and the only one to accomplish that to this day, and reached the pinnacle of our sport as the undisputed heavyweight champion in 1964.
“Beyond his incredible talent, he also made boxing interesting. Ali was fearless in the ring, and took on the toughest, most challenging opponents. Ali exemplified courage—he never took the easy route, something to be admired in and outside of the ring.
“As he grew older, he didn’t let his physical condition become an excuse to stop working; he continued to work hard, focusing on giving back to the community. Today, as we reflect on his life, let us remember a man who pursued greatness in everything he did and be inspired to hold ourselves to that same standard. Rest in peace, my friend.”
“I had a tough time fighting him. I didn’t want to fight him. Everything I got, I got through him. I remember telling (referee) Richard (Green during his fight with Ali), ‘For God’s sake, Richard, stop it now!’ We weren’t going to fight. But when someone puts close to $4-million in front of face, you take it.”
Larry Merchant (former Philadelphia Daily News sports editor who covered Ali)
“I know what it’s like to take a big punch now. Ali was a genius of his kind, in and out of the ring. I don’t think we’ve ever seen his like before or since. I remember a lot of private moments with him when he would say interesting things that showed how seriously smart he was. He sort of began the whole trash talking thing, and with Ali, it was always done with a sort of glint in his eye. You knew there was a smile behind all of it. It was meant to promote fights and it was all done for a sense of fun. He was often vilified and a lightning rod of the times that were changing. He was an important figure in history. He’s on a very short list with Joe Louis, who was arguably the first black hero in America after he beat Max Schmeling.”MORE NEWS: 3 Women Shot In Brewerytown Were Targeted Due To Instagram Post: Philadelphia Police
“The heavyweight champion of the world was an important figure in the world back then. Ali went way beyond that. He was significant political and social figure in the world. You could not know who Ali was. He was this brilliant showman and a political figure. I don’t know if anyone could image giving up the prime years of your life on a principle. He stood by his principles, and even though he was reviled at one point, over time he beat those who opposed him. He changed the establishment, or what it once was. He used the megaphone of being heavyweight champion and television to express his views, regardless of his it would affect his public persona. He transcended sports he transcended ocean, he transcended mountains.”