Former heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali is dead

Muhammad Ali in 1963. Photo by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images

Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali has died, according to a family spokesperson cited by ABC and NBC.

Ali had been suffering from respiratory issues this week and was hospitalized in Arizona, according to sources cited by Reuters.

“It’s extraordinarily grave. It’s a matter of hours,” the source told the newswire service earlier Friday.

Ali, 74, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the 1980s. He was reportedly being treated for a respiratory problem complicated by the neurological disease, The Associated Press reported.

Photo: Getty Images.

The news marked a significant apparent downturn for the former boxer. On Thursday, Ali’s condition was described as “fair.”

Ali has been hospitalized several times over the years, most recently in early 2015. The Hollywood Reporter noted that he has looked “increasingly frail” in public appearances, “including April 9 when he wore sunglasses and was hunched over” during an event in Phoenix.

Ali’s daughter, Laila, who was an undefeated boxer, is reportedly among Ali’s nine children with him at the hospital in Arizona. She thanked fans for their support and posted a baby picture of her daughter, Sydney, who was born in 2011, being held by the boxing legend.

Despite the debilitating effects Parkinson’s disease had on Ali’s body, it never seemed to daunt the boxing legend’s spirit. Ali remained a charismatic presence in public.

A towering figure in his prime, he still traveled and made appearances in his later years despite being muted by the thousands of punches he took during his remarkable career.

He beat the invincible Sonny Liston, fought a string of thrilling fights with Joe Frazier and stopped George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire. But he paid a terrible price for the estimated 29,000 punches he took to his head during a career that made him perhaps the most recognized person in the world.

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