Former President Bill Clinton will give a eulogy at the public funeral of Muhammad Ali next Friday, following the boxer’s death.
Clinton will be joined by comedian Bill Crystal and sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, who will also deliver speeches in Ali’s memory.
When the former heavyweight champion passed away on Friday, dignitaries from across the world offered their condolences, including the former President.
“I was honored to award him the Presidential Citizens Medal at the White House, to watch him light the Olympic flame, and to forge a friendship with a man who, through triumph and trials, became even greater than his legend,” Clinton wrote in a statement published by People magazine.
Clinton also discussed his close relationship with Ali at a small California campaign rally, where a primary vote on Tuesday’s primary could clinch the Democratic nomination for his wife, Hillary.
Clinton called Ali “my friend” and compared his boxing to the dominant basketball display of the Golden State Warriors. At the same time, Clinton talked about how Ali transformed from a boy to a man as he developed his religious and political convictions, and how he had the courage to face the consequences of his famous opposition to the Vietnam War.
He even went so far as to compare Hillary to Ali, stating that both of them were much better than portrayed by a media eager to attack them.
Ali’s funeral will be held in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. There will be a private funeral first on Thusday, where Ali will actually be buried, before the public memorial service on Friday. The funeral will be held at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville and it will be preceded by a procession in his honor in the city.
The procession will stop by Louisville landmarks that were important to Ali in his early days.
In the meantime, mourners and well-wishers are already heading to Louisville to pay their respects.
Makeshift memorials of flowers and gifts were set both outside Ali’s home, where his family spoke with visitors, and the nearby Muhammed Ali Center. Flags in Louisville were also set at half-mast.
Clinton was far from the only dignitary to pay his respects to Ali. In the sports world, LeBron James stated that Muhammed Ali was a key reason why black athletes “can do what we do in the sports world, and how the sacrifices made by Ali and other black athletes of his generation helped pave the road for athletes like James to be given greater freedom and more opportunities.
Kareeem Abdul-Jabbar, another famous athlete who like Ali changed his name to be more in line with his Islamic faith, talked with Ali about the difficulties they had to endure playing sports in a tumultuous era.
— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) 4 June 2016
Outside the sports world, other important figures paid their respects. Donald Trump, despite his controversial remarks about Muslims, called Ali “a great champion” who would be missed by all. Bernie Sanders, Jesse Jackson, and the Muslim mayor of London Sadiq Khan all talked about what a great man Ali was both in and outside the ring, and how he influenced so many people, including themselves.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) 4 June 2016
Ali passed away on Friday due to septic shock, a condition which results when the body overexerts itself battling infections. He had been hospitalized for a respiratory infection on Tuesday, which was tied to the Parkinson’s disease he had suffered from for three decades.
The boxer’s family was there to wish him goodbye. His daughter Hana Ali talked about how they prayed for him one last time. But, even at the very end, Muhammed Ali’s heart continued to beat for another thirty minutes after the rest of his organs failed. It was, as Hana observed, a final testament to her father’s strength and will.
[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]