THE family of Muhammad Ali has invited the “world” to join together to say farewell to the boxing legend as a massive procession and funeral takes in his US hometown this week.
The three-time world heavyweight champion, known as the Greatest, had battled Parkinson’s disease for 32 years.
His boxing career only encompassed half of his life. The other half was committed to sharing a message of people and inclusionBOB GUNNELL
He died on Friday evening aged 74 in Phoenix, Arizona, after being admitted to hospital with a respiratory condition on Monday.
His death resulted from complications related to his condition, described as “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes”.
His funeral and burial will take place on Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was born Cassius Clay in 1942.
Flags in the town have been flying at half-mast since his death was announced.
Family spokesman Bob Gunnell said the boxer would make his final journey “through the streets of Louisville to allow anyone who’s there from the world to say goodbye”.
His body will pass the Muhammad Ali Centre, travel along Muhammad Ali Boulevard and through his former neighbourhood.
The procession will end at Cave Hill cemetery for a private family ceremony.
Then there will be an interfaith memorial service with eulogies led by former US president Bill Clinton, actor Billy Crystal and American sports broadcaster Bryant Gumbel.
Reading a statement from Ali’s family, Mr Gunnell said: “Muhammad Ali was truly the people’s champion and the celebration will reflect his devotion to all races, religions, and backgrounds.
“Muhammad’s extraordinary boxing career only encompassed half of his life. The other half was committed to sharing a message of people and inclusion with the world.”
A private family service will be held on Thursday.
Ali’s younger brother Rahman Ali, who was also a heavy-weight boxer, described him as a “sweet, kind, nice” man who “was the world’s most famous person”. “There will never be another Muhammad Ali,” he added.
Tributes have flooded in from around the world.
US president Barack Obama, who has a pair of his gloves, said Ali “shook up the world and the world is better for it”.