Sport Boxing Ali funeral: Clinton and Crystal to offer eulogies

Ali funeral: Clinton and Crystal to offer eulogies

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Muhammad Ali crafted the plan for his final tribute years ago, long before he died.

On Friday, his family will honour him just like he planned, with a global celebration in his hometown Louisville.

A procession will carry his body down an avenue that bears his name, through his boyhood neighbourhood and down Broadway, the scene of the parade that honoured the brash young man – then known as Cassius Clay – for his gold medal at the 1960 Olympics.

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Funeral details were outlined by family spokesman Bob Gunnell at a news conference on Saturday in Scottsdale, Arizona, not far from Ali’s home in his final years.

The family “certainly believes that Muhammad was a citizen of the world … and they know that the world grieves with him”, Gunnell said.

Crystal was a big Ali fan. Getty
Crystal was a big Ali fan. Photo: Getty

Family members will accompany Ali’s remains to Louisville within the next two days.

A private funeral ceremony will be held Thursday.

After the Friday procession, a memorial service open to everyone will be held in Louisville.

The list of eulogists was not complete, but will include former President Bill Clinton, comedian Billy Crystal – who famously has done a masterful impression of Ali – and sports television host Bryant Gumbel.

The ceremony will be led by an imam in the Muslim tradition but will include representatives of other faiths.

Ai’s wife, Lonnie, and his children had 24 hours to say goodbye to him, Gunnell said.

The 74-year-old boxing great died on Saturday, the spokesman said, of “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes” after three decades of Parkinson’s disease.

In Louisville, not even pouring rain on Saturday could stop the flood of tributes for “The Greatest.”

In the three-time heavyweight champion’s old neighbourhood, brother Rahaman Ali stood in a small house on Grand Avenue and dabbed his eyes as he shook hand after hand.

The visitors had come from as far away as Georgia and as near as down the street.

“God bless you all,” the 72-year-old Rahaman said to each.

Ali’s death held special meaning in Louisville, where he was the city’s favourite son.

“He was one of the most honourable, kindest men to live on this planet,” his brother said while greeting mourners at their childhood home, recently renovated and turned into a museum.

Cars lined both sides of the Louisville street where Ali grew up.

The guests piled flowers and boxing gloves around the marker designating it a historical site.

They were young and old, black and white, friends and fans.

In 1978, with daughters Laila and Hanna at Grosvenor House.

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