06/04/2016, 17.37
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Asia and the world remember boxing legend Muhammad Ali

The former boxer died at the age of 74 in Phoenix. He battled Parkinson's disease for 32 years. Asian boxers pay tribute to the legendary figure.

Manila (AsiaNews) –  Muhammad Ali, 74, died in a hospital in Phoenix (Arizona), after being admitted for respiratory problems. He had been battling Parkinson’s for the past 32 years.

Manny Pacquiao, a former boxer now Filipino senator elect, was one of the first people to express his sorrow for the death of the boxing legend.

"We lost a giant today," Pacquiao said. "Boxing benefited from Muhammad Ali's talents but not nearly as much as mankind benefited from his humanity. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Ali family.”

These words highlight two aspects in Muhammad Ali’s life. He was a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion, but he was also a civil rights activist.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr, he converted to Islam in 1964, taking the name of Muhammad Ali. In 1967, he refused to serve in the US military in Vietnam, and became a champion for African-American rights.

Admired for his fast-moving and destructive blows, he said of his boxing style: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. His theatrics and sense of pride made him one of the most famous people in the world.

Ali's death is "a great loss,” said Indian boxer Vijender Singh. “He is a legend who inspired me. There will be no other like Ali. He was the one and the only. But we will always keep learning from his boxing."

"I definitely feel the loss after his death. He's a legend around the world, a boxer everyone adored who made boxing interesting," retired Indonesian boxing star Chris John told a news agency.

On the Chinese microblogging website Weibo, Chinese boxer Zou Shiming also expressed his sadness. "Why has his life been cut away? I still want to follow his path, I still wish I can one day win the championship and find the opportunity to pay homage to him. From now on, what a pity we won't see him again."

Once asked about his preferred legacy, Ali said: "I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him . . . who stood up for his beliefs . . . who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.

"And if all that's too much, then I guess I'd settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn't even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was."

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”