From established stars like Vijender Singh and M C 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, who passed away in the US after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
The three-time world heavyweight champion was put on a life support system on Thursday in a Phoenix hospital where he breathed his last at the age of 74.
“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.
Born as Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942 before converting to Islam, Ali is survived by his nine children, including daughter Laila, who like her father became a world champion boxer; and his fourth wife, Lonnie.
In 1960, Ali won an Olympic gold medal as a light-heavyweight. After turning professional, he defeated Sonny Liston by KO in the seventh round and became the World Heavyweight Champion in 1964.
“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 teeted.
Tennis player Rohan Bopanna said, “Really really sad news about the passing away of Muhammad Ali, Absolute legend. #RIP MuhammadAli.”
Reacting to Ali’s death, Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar said he had always wished to meet the legendary pugilist.
“My hero since childhood. I always had a wish to meet you some day but now it will never happen. RIP “The Greatest”,” Tendulkar tweeted.
Also paying tributes was chess wizard Viswanathan Anand.
“Sportsperson chase excellence with ambition. We look up to a few who tell us keep going. One such name is #MuhammadAli …Float like a butterfly sting like a bee would never be the same. R.I.P. The great #MuhammadAli,” he wrote on his Twitter page.