As tributes pour in for the late Muhammad Ali following the passing of the world heavyweight boxing champion, an interesting story has emerged. It turns out one of Ali’s biggest fans was the late and great musician, Prince.
While Prince kept the company of the world’s greatest musicians and performers, only one man could make him awestruck and that was Muhammad Ali.
Reportedly the pair forged a strong friendship back in 1997 after the world heavyweight boxing champ requested Prince’s help in staging a charity concert. That concert was the World Healing Honors benefit and was dedicated to supporting charities that highlighted awareness to racism and prejudice around the world.
The benefit was the brainchild of Ali, who said at the time: “I wish people would love everybody else the way that they love me. I hope I can encourage people to show the same love and respect for each other. If so, it would be a better world.”
According to the Daily Mail Online, Prince spoke at a press conference at the time, saying he was totally awestruck when coming face to face with his childhood hero Ali. In fact, he said he would have done literally anything Ali asked him to do.
“My friend Londell McMillan called me a couple of days ago and asked me. He said, ‘Muhammad wants you to’ – and I said ‘Yes’. I didn’t even let him finish. He could have said, ‘Mow the lawn’, and I would have been down with it,” he said.
“Muhammad’s my hero. He has been since I was a child. As you can see, he’s such an inspiration to many people.”
Reportedly after that first meeting, Ali and Prince continued to share a close bond. When Prince passed away unexpectedly in April, Ali was among the first to pay tribute to the “Purple Rain” legend.
Posting a photo of the two of them together he wrote: “We’ve lost a true original. @Prince was someone who cared for others & used his genius to help many.”
— Muhammad Ali (@MuhammadAli) April 22, 2016
Regrettably it was not long after this that the world would also be mourning 74-year-old Ali, as he lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease and passed away on June 3. He had been admitted to a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, a day earlier, suffering from a respiratory condition.
According to ESPN, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s back in 1984, just three years after quitting boxing. He was in the hospital in December, 2014. and again in January, 2015, suffering from a severe urinary tract infection, that was initially diagnosed as pneumonia.
Ali’s last official public appearance was reportedly back in October, when he appeared at the Sports Illustrated tribute to him at the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
Getting back to the Purple One, Ali’s daughter Hana also shared a photo of Prince meeting with her father, saying Ali was the love of her life and captioning the image, “Prince doing his version of Daddy’s levitating magic trick act!” she wrote.
Prince doing his version of Daddys levitating magic trick act! pic.twitter.com/ckDQf9XBVt
— Hana Ali (@Hanayali) June 5, 2016
There has been a huge outpouring of grief over the death of the boxing champion, with people from sports and entertainment paying tribute to the legend, along with his many fans and political figures. President Barack Obama, who had previously described Ali as his greatest inspiration, said that the world champ “shook up the world and the world is better for it.”
The year 2016 has been a sad year so far in many ways. First it was the passing of David Bowie, then the loss of Prince, and now his close friend Muhammad Ali.
[Photo Muhammad Ali by Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images – Prince by by Victor Malafronte/Getty Images]