What Ali taught me
Ask a young tennis pro to name the greatest player ever and it is highly unlikely he'll pick a legend from the 1960s or 70s, a Laver or a Borg. Likewise, ask a young rugby union pro the same question and the answer will not be Colin Meads or Barry John.
Game-changers in their individual sports rarely stay game-changers for long. Most games move on and one era's game-changer eventually becomes a modern-day fossil. What does Laver have to teach the kids today, the kids themselves might argue, when he was 5ft 8in, 10st wet and wielded as his weapon a hunk of laminated wood?
But after Muhammad Ali changed boxing, boxing remained forever in his thrall. Illness has diminished him, but the reality is, rather than boxing fossilising him, Ali was so great he fossilised boxing.
BBC Sport speaks to five of British boxing's finest young talents about why the 70-year-old Ali still means so much to them.
For any young kid coming into boxing, Ali will have affected them to a point they probably don't even realise. I love boxing for many reasons but when I was a really small kid, watching British boxers like Naseem Hamed, Chris Eubank, Frank Bruno and Nigel Benn, Ali was always the greatest fighter of all time.
He packed up boxing before I was born but I know everything about him because of the great things he did. People who don't know about boxing know Ali - who he boxed, what he represented. The average punter might not be able to understand some of the finer points of technique but if you can sing and dance and tell a good story, that appeals to everyone.
He reinvented boxing in many ways. He was one of the first fighters to trash-talk and some of the things he said were bad - very bad. But he understood the business of boxing before anyone else; he knew what sold and what captured the public's imagination.
I remember as a kid watching a video of his fight against George Foreman, the 'Rumble in the Jungle', on loop for about two weeks. And now you can flick on YouTube and learn from his fights. As a smaller fighter, you don't normally learn that much from heavyweights - sometimes they just stand there, plant their feet and 'whack' - but Ali had the full package.
Ali has always been my idol, ever since I was a child. I remember watching the 'Rumble in the Jungle' on video and it was amazing how Ali adapted so fast to the conditions.
After the first few rounds it did not look possible that he could win. George Foreman had been knocking everyone out and was incredibly powerful. But Ali found a way to win by leaning on the ropes and taking shots to the body to wear his opponent out. He had incredible boxing intelligence.
When I met him [in 2006] it was one of my proudest days and something I will never forget. He touched the lives of so many people, both inside and outside boxing, and that's the reason he became 'The Greatest'. I want to wish him all the best and many more happy years.
He was one of the first boxers I ever watched and when I watched him it made me feel good, made me get excited about the sport. That would have been when I was about 13 years old, when I first started boxing. Once I'd seen him, I just fell in love with the sport.
There was one stage in my boxing career when I used to watch a bit of Ali before every fight. I'd go on YouTube and watch a couple of his fights, not just to feel good but also to see how he did things. I used to think the 'Ali Shuffle' was ace. I've tried it once or twice but didn't manage to pull it off.
He was a boxer, a mover. You never used to see him tuck up and fight on the inside. He used to work to his strengths, keeping his opponent at range, using his feet. I'm a bantamweight and I'm watching a heavyweight for tips - it should be the heavyweights looking at us little guys, seeing how we move our feet and how quick we are.
And you could watch him talk all day - he was just as exciting outside the ring as he was inside. To think that he retired 30 years ago and hasn't really said much for 20 years, it's crazy the influence he still has. I wouldn't like to think of what boxing might have been like without him. I wouldn't like to think of that at all.
Ali is the main man in boxing. If you talk about boxing, his name is right at the top of the pile, the first person you mention. He made the sport what it is today, he's the all-time greatest and no-one will ever take his position.
He had that big mouth on him, amazing charisma, and he was just as entertaining when he got in the ring for those big fights against Liston, Foreman and Frazier. Ali was the complete package: he could box, he could talk the talk, he could promote a fight. He had everything.
Every boxer, whether they know they're doing it or not, will imitate things he did. They may not box like him but they all know who he is and some of Ali will have rubbed off. I always watch his videos: the 'Thrilla in Manila', the 'Rumble in the Jungle' - they're classics. And the gym where I'm from [the Ingles' gym in Sheffield], he's imitated: fighting on the back foot, coming from angles. I'd like to think I've got some of the flair Ali had.
Even when Ali has gone he'll always be the greatest. When a young boxer comes along, people will say 'he's got the flair like Ali, he dances like Ali, he talks like Ali'. But you can't ever imitate him - people try but they never get it right.
Ali is an icon. Everyone who takes up boxing knows the name Muhammad Ali. All the talking, all the bad-mouthing that takes place during the build-up to fights, the head-to-heads, the uproar at weigh-ins - that's all down to Muhammad Ali.
There are plenty of fighters now who try that kind of thing and you get members of the public who love and hate that kind of thing. But that's what generates the hype around fights, and Ali is the reason it became part of the business.
But as well as being a great character - the way he talked, with confidence and wit - he also had tremendous fighting ability. The way he boxed was different, he brought a new style to heavyweight boxing - supple, a lot of movement.
I obviously didn't see him fight live but you can certainly learn from the old guys, and I've seen enough clips of him to know how much of a gifted fighter he was. I've seen all the old classic fights - against Foreman and Frazier. It was raw back then, full of intrigue, a real buzz round the fights, and just great to watch.