Thousands bid farewell to Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali has been remembered as more than just a boxing legend during a memorial service in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Around 20,000 people lined the streets as the body of the three-time world heavyweight champion was driven to its final resting place.


The 74-year-old, who died surrounded by family a week ago, had planned his farewell with requests for eulogies from former US President Bill Clinton and good friend, comedian Billy Crystal.

Crystal’s heart warming tribute generated laughter and tears as he recounted his long friendship with Ali, who called him ‘little brother’.

“He was always himself. Willing to give up everything for what he believed in,” Crystal said when reflecting on Ali’s decision to refuse to fight in the Vietnam War. The stance saw the champion banned from the ring for three years.

“He was a tremendous bolt of lightning. A fantastic combination of light and beauty,” Crystal said.

“Muhammad Ali struck us in the middle of America’s darkest night, in the heart of its most threatening gathering storm. His intense light shone on America and we were able to see injustice, inequality, poverty, pride… courage, love, joy and religious freedom for all.

“Ali forced us to take a look at ourselves. (He) ultimately became a silent messenger of peace who taught us that life is best when you build bridges between people, not walls.”

Ali’s loved ones also took to the stage, including his wife Lonnie Williams and daughter Maryum Ali, who captivated the congregation with a gift of the gab, seemingly inherited from her father.

“I am grateful for all of our conversations about men, women and relationships, guiding me to first have a loving relationship with self,” Maryum said.

“Refusing anyone to chip away at my esteem and expect the respect of a queen.

“So many have shared personal stories of what you have meant to them. If I had a dollar for every story, I could paper the sky.

“Our family is proud of the legacy you left behind. But I hope, that the history of you can help turn the tide of self-hate and violence because we are overwhelmed with moments of silence for tragic deaths.

“We crave for peace.”