What made Muhammad Ali ‘The Greatest’?

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Muhammad Ali universally acknowledged as "The Greatest" boxer of all time

He was a global icon whose fame spread far beyond the sporting arena

CNN  — 

“I am the greatest.”

It’s easy to say – but much harder to convince millions of people around the world that you’re right.

A conversation about Muhammad Ali could go on for hours before even beginning to touch on the sporting legacy he left in the ring.

His charisma, charm, quick wit and ability to turn a phrase were just some of the qualities that made him a truly global icon.

He transcended boxing.

It says a lot about him that many sporting icons look up to Ali in much the same way as his hordes of “ordinary” fans.

“Muhammad Ali, when I started boxing, was one of my inspirations,” Manny Pacquiao, another of boxing’s all-time greats, told CNN after Ali’s death was announced.

“I always admired him and I always thought ‘This is my inspiration, why I am here in boxing.’

“We all know what he has done and accomplished. He’s an inspiration to all boxers.”

Pacquiao said Ali’s death, at the age of 74, following years of ill health was “a big loss for boxing,” but that his legend would live on.

“He passed away, but the memory of Muhammad Ali and his accomplishments we will never forget.”

While mourning is inevitable when someone of Ali’s stature passes away, it also has served as an opportunity to celebrate his life.

“Every fiber of his being was great,” said David Haye, a fellow former heavyweight world champion.

“His personal and religious beliefs were so strong that he lost three and a half of his best years because of a decision he made not to go to Vietnam.