Newspaper headlines: Muhammad Ali dominates front pages

"The greatest."

That was how Muhammad Ali described himself - and several of Sunday's headlines echo those words.

"Of all the sporting greats it was Muhammad Ali who defined the 20th Century," the Sunday Express says.

In a year "already blighted by many sad losses", Ali's death "brings to an end one of the great lives of our time," the Times reflects.

The words of US President Barack Obama are widely quoted: "Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it."

The Sun says: "The fact that there is now a black US president is itself one example of the impact Ali had on his nation."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Ali beat George Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle" in 1974

The Observer examines how Ali - who began boxing as Cassius Clay before changing his name - won his most memorable fights.

Against Cleveland Williams in 1966, it says his display was "as artful - beautiful, even - as smashing someone repeatedly around the face can be".

In the "Rumble in the Jungle" in 1974, the paper says Ali sent George Foreman down with a "perfect connect four - left-right-left-right".

The Mail on Sunday says the 1975 "Thrilla in Manilla" was "one of boxing's most brutal ever contests".

It says Ali and Joe Frazier "traded blow after blow" until Ali was declared winner by technical knockout, and afterwards he told his trainers: "Man, this is the closest I've ever been to dying."

'Enraged mainstream America'

But Ali was more than a boxer, and many of the papers focus on his personality and politics.

"The skinny kid who stood up to racist white America with his courage, charisma, wit and wisdom," is how the Mirror puts it.

Writing in the paper, Brian Reade says Ali "gave a voice to his country's black people" and "helped to lift them from their knees".

He says Ali's defining characteristic was courage - the courage to change his name in an "overtly political gesture that enraged mainstream America", to refuse to serve in Vietnam, to become world champion and return to the ring time and again.

Image copyright AP

The Express says Ali "arguably showed the most courage when Parkinson's disease left him on the ropes".

"A strong man became a fragile man, and yet his spirit remained like iron," the Telegraph says.

Ali was a "fighter to the end", the Sun says, as it reports that he "defied Parkinson's disease with daily workouts" at the age of 74.

His daughter Maryum says: "My dad outlived many of those he trained with and fought against and lived longer than people who had no disease at all. He has lived the lives of 100 men."

'Punchy' quotes

The Times carries a list of "punchy" Ali quotes, including: "I'm so mean I make medicine sick" and: "If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologise."

But alongside the arrogance, many reflect on Ali's sense of humour.

In the Observer, his biographer Thomas Hauser recalls a time when the boxer was asked to put on his seatbelt on a plane.

"Superman don't need no seatbelt," Ali replied - to which the flight attendant "sweetly" said: "Mr Ali, Superman don't need no plane."

Hauser says Ali's face "lit up and he laughed as hard as anyone" when he later told that story.


What the commentators say

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Media captionColumnist Susie Boniface and Philippa Kennedy, ombudsman at the Sun, join the BBC News Channel to review Sunday's front pages.

Tory 'game of thrones'

With less than three weeks until the vote, the EU referendum is the only story big enough to battle Ali for front-page space.

Under a huge picture of Ali, the Sunday Telegraph focuses on an "extraordinary attack" by Vote Leave leaders Michael Gove and Boris Johnson against fellow Conservatives David Cameron and George Osborne.

The pair say voters "cannot trust" the PM and the chancellor to honour their promises on Europe, the paper reports.

The Remain side has dismissed the comments as "reckless nonsense", but in an editorial the Telegraph says "the ball is now in Mr Cameron's court".

It says the Remain campaign has focused on the "risks" of leaving the EU, but the PM must now "answer the big question Remain has yet to address: What happens if the UK votes to stay in?"

Writing in the Observer, Andrew Rawnsley says the referendum was always likely to be a "blue-on-blue" battle with Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson leading the two sides.

But he says: "Too much of the argument is being conducted as if this were the Eton Wall Game, an arcane and violent sport played only by the tiny number of expensively educated people who have been taught the rules."

Image copyright PA

He adds: "This isn't some kind of Tory game of thrones... This is far, far more important than that. Everyone's country is at stake."

Meanwhile the Mail says "neo-Nazis, violent thugs and racists" are trying to infiltrate and hijack the Leave campaigns.

An investigation by the paper found evidence that "dozens of far-right extremists" have "attached themselves to Leave movements", it says.

In an editorial, it says talk about immigration "inevitably" attracts bigots as well as decent people, and leaders of the Leave campaigns must "disown any prejudiced backers".

"Votes won with such support would be tainted. The democratic process relies, in the end, on decency," it says.


Eye-catching headlines:

  • Going away? Get a tomato sitter: There is an "increasing demand for the horticultural version of a house sitter", the Sunday Times reports. Survey results show 45% of vegetable growers are "passionate" enough to get someone to look after their plants while they are on holiday, the paper says.
  • Stonehenge "was Welsh tomb moved by its builders": Archaeologists suspect Stonehenge was "initially an impressive Welsh tomb before being dismantled and shipped to modern-day Wiltshire", the Telegraph reports.
  • Go naked to end teen pregnancies... say naturists: A nudist movement says problems like teen pregnancy and pornography obsessions could be solved by bringing children up around naked bodies, the Mail on Sunday reports.
  • Vardian angel: The Sun on Sunday has sought "divine intervention" to boost England's chances at Euro 2016 - by taking striker Jamie Vardy's boots to be blessed by a priest.
Image copyright AFP

Making people click:

Guardian: Jamie Vardy's proposed move to Arsenal may not be the fairytale ending

Telegraph: Muhammad Ali's tangled love life leaves troubled legacy

Mail: Farewell to the Louisville Lip: Muhammad Ali's hometown says goodbye to its favourite son after the greatest boxer ever dies aged 74 following 32-year battle with Parkinson's

Mirror: Enormous lion pounces at two-year-old boy in zoo after youngster turns his back but smashes headfirst into glass