U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday mourned boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, who died on Friday in Phoenix‚ Arizona, following a respiratory ailment. A White House statement quoted Obama as saying: “Muhammad Ali was the Greatest, Period. “ If you just asked him, he will tell you, he will tell you he was the double greatest, that he had handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail. “Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. “However, we are also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while, for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time”, he said. Obama said Ali shook up the world, and the world is better for it. “Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.’’ “In my private study, just off the Oval Office in the White House, I keep a pair of his gloves on display just under that iconic photograph of him, the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston. “I was too young when the photograph was taken to understand who he was. “Still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden,” Obama said. He quoted the legendary as once declared that “I am America, “I am the part you won’t recognise, but get used to me black, confident, cocky, my name, not yours; my religion, not yours, my goals, my own, get used to me.’’ Obama said that was the Ali he knew as he came of age, “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, he stood with King and Mandela, stood up when it was hard, spoke out when others wouldn’t. 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, makes him reviled and nearly send him to jail. “But Ali stood his ground, and his victory helped us get used to the America we recognise today”, Obama said. The reports quoted a famous boxing promoter, Bob Arum, who promoted 27 of Ali’s fights, as saying that “a true great has left us. “Muhammad Ali transformed this country and impacted the world with his spirit. His legacy will be part of our history for all time.’’ U.S. basketball star, LeBron James, stated that the reason why he’s the GOAT (greatest of all time), is not because of what he did in the ring, which was unbelievable. “It’s what he did outside of the ring, what he believed in, what he stood for along with Jim Brown and Oscar Robertson, Lew Alcindor, who became Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson. “Those guys stood for something; he’s part of the reason why African- Americans today can do what we do in the sports world. We are free. “They allow us to have access to anything we want. It’s because of what they stood for, and Muhammad Ali was definitely the pioneer for that,” LeBron said in a statement. Ali, 74, was admitted to hospital on Thursday where he was being treated for respiratory complications. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Ali’s funeral will take place in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, US, on Saturday. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ali converted to Islam with the name Muhammad Ali. He won the world heavyweight title three times (1964, 1974 and 1978). The first was in 1964 when, at only 22 years old, he stunned the world by beating American Sonny Liston. He retired in 1981 after winning 56 out of 61 fights, 37 by knockout.