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NI tributes to boxing legend Muhammad Ali

May 6th 1966: Muhammad Ali in training for his title fight against Henry Cooper. copyright PRESS ASSOCIATION

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The former heavyweight champion was widely regarded as the greatest boxer of all time

Tributes from the Northern Ireland sporting world and beyond are being paid to boxing legend Muhammad Ali who died aged 74.

The former world heavyweight boxing champion, one of the world’s best-known sportsmen, died at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix, Arizona, after being admitted on Thursday.

He was suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.

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Muhammad Ali pictured during his visit to Ireland in 2009

“He was meant to present me with the award of fighter of the year in the 1990s, but he could not travel because of his illness – that would have been the defining moment of my career.

“Muhammad Ali was probably the best fighter of all time. He inspired nearly every boxer on the planet.

“He was like George Best in football. He was the first superstar boxer, without a doubt. He opened all the doors. He made boxing look glamorous.” – Dave Boy McAuley, former boxing flyweight world champion.

“As a boxer, he called it – he was ‘the greatest’. But there was more to him than boxing. He was an entertainer. The world has never seen the like of him.

“He loved a joke and he was a very nice guy to meet. He was inspirational, not alone in the boxing world. He brought a new side to boxing, He was the greatest thing that ever happened to professional boxing. He became the best-known face on the planet.” – Barney Eastwood, former boxing promoter

“He was such a legend. As a kid I remember shadow boxing around the living room and him on the video. He did inspire me to be a boxer.

“Everybody I know – they have all done the Ali shuffle, either on the dance floor or in the gym. He was the best sportsman that has ever lived and what a life he has led.” – Brian Magee, former super-middleweight world champion.

“He was ‘The Greatest’, one of the most influential men that ever lived. RIP Muhammad Ali.” – Carl Frampton, former super-bantamweight champion.

“He was the greatest to ever do it. RIP Muhammad Ali, you showed the world how great you were.” – Michael Conlan, bantamweight world champion.

Media captionWatch old footage of Muhammad Ali in Ireland

“He was just the greatest sportsman that has ever been. We are very lucky that he happened to be in our sport. He was hugely famous and what he did for the sport – he was an amazing humanitarian and look what he did for civil rights in America. He was a remarkable individual.” – Barry McGuigan, former world featherweight champion.

“Sad day for sport all over the world, RIP Muhammad Ali!” – Paddy Barnes, two-times Olympics bronze medallist.

“The world has lost not just one of the greatest boxers of all time, but also a courageous human rights campaigner who devoted his life to leaving the world a better a place than he found it” – Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International

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Ali (r) knocked down George Foreman in the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle”

“The passing of Muhammad Ali will have been heard with the greatest sadness by Irish people of all generations.

“Many will remember the wit, grace and beauty he brought to boxing and some will recall his visits to Ireland. All over the world people also flocked to hear him offer his view on the achievement of democracy and particularly equal rights when they were so strikingly missing in some of the richest countries of the world. He brought his message of freedom and respect for people of all races to all the continents of the world.

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The former heavyweight champion was widely regarded as the greatest boxer of all time

“As a sportsman and humanitarian, and as someone who struggled for a very long time with one of the most debilitating illnesses, he offered courage in the face of great difficulties.” – Irish President Michael D Higgins

“The last time I met him was in 2000 when he was given the award as the outstanding sports personality of the century.

“At that stage, the onset of Parkinson’s was very very obvious.

“Four years before that, I sat in the stadium at Lansdowne , hoping and praying that the Parkinsons and his shaking and so on would not prevent him from lighting the Olympic torch. But, magnificently, as you would expect from him, he actually got through it.” – former BBC commentator Jim Neilly.

The funeral will take place in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, his family said in a statement.

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