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Yair Lapid, a former amateur boxer, eulogizes Muhammad Ali

Yesh Atid leader says boxing legend taught world that ‘victory is the ability to stay on your feet after everyone else has given up’

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 1966 (CC BY-SA Dutch National Archives via Wikimedia Commons)
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 1966 (CC BY-SA Dutch National Archives via Wikimedia Commons)

The head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, eulogized on Saturday boxing legend Muhammad Ali who died a day earlier aged 74.

Lapid, a former amateur boxer, said: “Ali was not afraid of anything. He made up his own rules inside the ring and out, and he told the world that is how he acted even (if) they didn’t like it.”

“He was suspended for political reasons, he was arrested, he lost, he once boxed 12 rounds with a broken jaw, but he always came back. We learned from him that victory is the ability to stay on your feet after everyone else has raised their hands and given up,” Lapid went on.

The sports hero, who had been battling Parkinson’s disease for decades, passed away in a Phoenix-area hospital here where he had been admitted earlier in the week after suffering from respiratory problems.

“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74,” spokesman Bob Gunnell said.

“The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening.”

A screenshot from a 2015 video in which Yair Lapid spars. (Screenshot/YouTube)
A screenshot from a 2015 video in which Yair Lapid spars. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Funeral arrangements for Ali would be announced on Saturday, he added, with the champion to be buried in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Ali had been living in the Phoenix area with his fourth wife, Lonnie, whom he married in 1986. He is survived by nine children, seven daughters and two sons.

Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party speaks at the opening of the Yedioth Aharonot conference at the Jerusalem Convention Center on March 28, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Upon his death tributes immediately poured in for “The Greatest,” who was known globally not only for his storied ring career but also for his humanitarian activism.

US President Barack Obama, who said he keeps a pair of Ali’s boxing gloves and a photo in his private study, hailed the late boxer for his civil rights work.

“His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.”

He was, Obama said, “not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us.”

Ali had been hospitalized multiple times in recent years.

In 2014 he was treated for a mild case of pneumonia and again in 2015 for a urinary tract infection.

In this Feb. 22, 2012, file photo, former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali poses at St. Joseph's Hospital Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
In this Feb. 22, 2012, file photo, former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali poses at St. Joseph’s Hospital Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

His Parkinson’s, thought to be linked to the thousands of punches he took during a career studded by bruising battles inside the ropes, had limited his public speaking.

But he continued to make appearances and offer opinions through his family members and spokespeople.

In April, he attended a Celebrity Fight Night Dinner in Phoenix that raised funds for treatment of Parkinson’s.

In December, he issued a statement rebuking US presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

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