Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest sportsmen the world has ever known, died late Friday night at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona where he was hospitalised earlier this week for a respiratory ailment. He was 74.

 

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, Ali changed his name in 1964 when he converted to Islam. He changed his name because he said Cassius Clay was the name a white master gave to slaves and he wanted to choose a "beautiful African name."

 

From established stars like Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom to the fast-rising Shiva Thapa, the Indian boxing fraternity was united in grief as it mourned the demise of the legendary Muhammad Ali.

 

Muhammad Ali was a legend and a legend never dies. All that he did for the sport will never be forgotten. In fact his work even outside the ring has immortalised him. He did so much for so many,” Vijender told PTI, reacting to Ali’s death.

 

Nicknamed "The Greatest," Ali had a record of 56 wins, 37 by knockout, and five losses. The funeral will take place in Ali's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, his family said in a statement.

 

“It’s a huge, huge loss for boxing. I personally feel a sense of loss because he had inspired me and so many others like me. He will always be remembered for being a powerful boxer and an equally powerful personality. It’s a very sad day for the sport,” said Mary Kom, a five-time world champion.

 

Shiva, the lone Indian boxer to have qualified for the Rio Olympics thus far, said Ali would always be synonymous with boxing.

“It really saddens me that a huge legend is no more between us. But greats never die, they live on for all that they have done in their lifetime. He will always be alive in the hearts of people because he touched so many lives with all that he did. He may not be there in person anymore but his spirit will live on because every time someone would say boxing, the first name to come to mind would be Ali,” Shiva said.

 

Former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and one of India’s most successful boxers, Akhil Kumar, also offered his tributes to the legend. “You will be remembered as a Legend.... Truly a Hero for me and many others,” he tweeted.

 

Ali’s appeal was not limited merely to the boxing fraternity. Former Indian cricket captain Anil Kumble tweeted, “Greatest sportsman of all time! May his soul rest in peace.”

 

Former Olympic silver-medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who is now a minister in the current government, also paid his tributes. “Perhaps one of the greatest sportsman Muhammad Ali is no more. RIP,” he tweeted.

 

Tennis player Rohan Bopanna said, “Really really sad news about the passing away of Muhammad Ali, Absolute legend. #RIP MuhammadAli.”

 

Indian Chess wizard Vishwanathan Anand, and cricketers Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh are many others, who have paid tributes to Ali.