Louisville (Kentucky), June 11 (IANS) Thousands of people attended a farewell procession for boxing legend Muhammad Ali in his home city of Louisville, in the US state of Kentucky on Friday.
Muhammad Ali was buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky, after one last drive through his hometown in a motorcade bearing his remains, CNN reported.
The processional passed important spots in Ali’s life before heading to the ceremony for the private burial.
Onlookers cheered his cortege as it passed by on its way to the cemetery. The ex-heavyweight champion and rights activist died last Friday aged 74.
The service, attended by dignitaries and by several thousand people who acquired free tickets, was held at the KFC Yum! Centre, BBC reported.
It started with a Koran reading in Arabic. Imam Hamzah Abdul Malik recited Sura Fosselat, Prostration chapter 41 verses 30-35, which includes the words: “Truly those who say our Lord is God and are righteous, the angels will descend upon them saying have neither fear nor sadness but rather rejoice in this paradise that you have been promised.”
Local Protestant minister Kevin Cosby said: “Before James Brown said ‘I’m black and I’m proud’, Muhammad Ali said ‘I’m black and I’m pretty’.”
Ali’s wife Lonnie told the crowd: “If Muhammad did not like the rules, he rewrote them. His religion, his beliefs, his name were his to fashion, no matter what the cost. Muhammad wants young people of every background to see his life as proof that adversity can make you stronger. It cannot rob you of the power to dream, and to reach your dreams.”
Former US President Bill Clinton described Ali as “a free man of faith”.
“I think he decided very young to write his own life story. I think he decided that he would not be ever disempowered. Not his race, not his place, not the expectations of others whether positive or negative would strip from him the power to write his own story,” He said.
Valerie Jarrett, an aide to President Barack Obama who knew the boxer personally, read a letter from the President describing Ali as “bigger, brighter and more influential than just about anyone in his era… Muhammad Ali was America. Muhammad Ali will always be America. What a man.” The president was not there, as he was attending his eldest daughter Malia’s graduation.
Obama did not attend boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s funeral in Louisville because it coincided with his daughter Malia’s high school graduation ceremony in Washington.
A two-day funeral began on Thursday at the Freedom Hall arena where Ali had some of the best bouts at the dawn of his distinguished boxing career. Some 14,000 free tickets were issued to attend the jenazah, Tass reported.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, the legendary boxer converted to Islam in 1964 assuming the name of Muhammad Ali.
He first tried boxing gloves at the age of 12 and six years later he won gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics in the light heavyweight category.
Boasting a record of 56 wins and five losses including 37 knockputs, Ali, nicknamed ‘The Greatest,’ is the only boxer as of today to be named five times by respected boxing magazine The Ring as the “Fighter of the Year”.
He is also the only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion, having won the titles in 1964, 1974 and 1978.
He reigned as the undisputed Heavyweight World Champion between February 25 and September 19, 1964, while Sports Illustrated magazine named him “Sportsman of the Century” and BBC called him “Sports Personality of the Century”.
Actor Will Smith, who portrayed the boxer in the 2001 film about his life called “Ali”, was present with former boxer Mike Tyson at the venue.