BOXING legends Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, along with Hollywood actor Will Smith, help Muhammad Ali make his final ring walk – as the hearse carrying the icon’s body leaves the funeral home ahead of his memorial service in Louisville, Kentucky, according to The Sun.
Hundreds of fans gathered outside to say their final goodbyes to the three-time heavyweight champ. Louisville native Ali, born Cassius Clay, died last Friday of septic shock in an Arizona hospital aged 74 – after bravely battling Parkinson’s disease since 1984.
Actor Smith, who played Ali in the 2001 Oscar nominated screen biopic, helped British boxing great Lewis and his former-foe Tyson carry the coffin of the man widely regarded as ‘The Greatest’. Speaking with The Telegraph, London-born former heavyweight champ Lewis said: “The legacy of Muhammad Ali will last forever. I’m happy that I am here to say goodbye to the greatest.”
Other stars attending the funeral at a 22,000-seater basketball stadium include Hollywood actor Will Smith, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, singer Yusuf Islam and comedian Billy Crystal. Sherman Jackson, a Muslim scholar at the University of Southern California, spoke about the impact Ali’s death will have on followers of Islam.
He said: “The passing of Muhammad Ali has made us all feel a little more alone in the world. “Something solid, something big, beautiful and life-affirming has left this world.” The cultural icon, whose glittering boxing career lasted from 1960 until 1981, had reportedly been planning his funeral for ten years.
Ali wanted the service to honour his Muslim faith, which he adopted in the early 1960s, but also to be receptive toWestern media-driven culture. On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama praised the sporting-great in a Facebook live broadcast from the White House, showing off a copy of the book, “GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali,” and a signed pair of boxing gloves gifted to him by Ali.
He said: “It’s very rare where a figure captures the imagination of the entire world. “He was one of a kind and in my book he’ll always be the greatest.” Born Cassius Clay in 1942, Ali won an Olympic gold medal in 1960 before sensationally winning the heavyweight title in 1964 beating Sonny Liston at age 22.
After refusing to fight in the Vietnam War, the sporting great was stripped of his titles and spent three years in the boxing wilderness from 1967 until 1970. Ali’s greatness was largely defined by three iconic fights with Joe Frazier and his 1974 battle with George Foreman dubbed the Rumble in the Jungle.
The boxing idol retired after humiliating defeats to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick in 1980 and 1981 receptively. In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and withdrew from public life although he was actively involved in numerous charitable causes.