Many people in the world of sports are still mourning the death of Muhammad Ali, who was hospitalized last Monday with respiratory trouble. His family members held out hope that he would bounce back like he had so many times before, but this time, the champ went down for good. Muhammad Ali passed away last Friday, at 74-years-old.
A spokesperson for the family named Bob Gunnell told reporters that Ali had been admitted to the hospital in fair condition. However, things became serious very quickly, and he says “it became clear that his condition wasn’t going to improve.”
Now, the world of sports and those who loved him most are prepared to memorialize the great Muhammad Ali, a.k.a. “The Louisville Lip” later in the week. The memorial services will take place on Thursday and Friday in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
The public memorial is scheduled to take place at 2:00 p.m. at the Yum Center. The Yum Center is a 22,000-seat arena and is located in the heart of the city where Muhammad Ali began his amateur boxing career at only 12-years-old. The public memorial will be a ticketed event. Information on obtaining tickets will be released later in the week. A report from CNN confirmed that the service will be streamed live on the Muhammad Ali Center website.
Sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, former president Bill Clinton, and comedian Billy Crystal, who was Ali’s close friend, will give eulogies. Ali’s immediate family will have a private gathering on Thursday. A statement from the family was released on June 4.
According to that statement, “Muhammad Ali was truly the people’s champion and the celebration will reflect his devotion to people of 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 peace and inclusion with the world. Following his wishes, his funeral will reflect those principles, and be a celebration open to everyone.”
The body of the three-time heavyweight champion will be driven through the streets of Louisville before his burial. He will be buried at Cave Hill Cemetery.
His daughter, Hana Ali, wrote that his children were with him in his final moments. His family held his hands and hugged and kissed him, while chanting a prayer. She also wrote that some of the family members whispered in his ear, “You can go now. We will be okay. We love you. Thank you. You can go back to God now.”
— Hana Ali (@Hanayali) June 4, 2016
After his organs began to fail, Hana wrote that the Champ’s heart continued to beat for another half hour. Ali’s longtime friend John Ramsey was at the hospital when he passed. Ramsey, who has a radio show on ESPN and works for WAVE in Louisville, said that Lonnie Ali (Muhammad’s wife) called him on Friday morning to let him know that Ali’s health had begun to deteriorate. Ramsey told CNN’s Dan Simon that “she said, ‘You might want to come out,’ which I decided to do.”
As the world prepares for Muhammad Ali’s Memorial service, tributes continue to pour in from world leaders, athletes, and regular folks alike. Ali wrote in his book that he wanted to be remembered as “a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous, and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.”
— ITV News Tyne Tees (@itvtynetees) June 4, 2016
Ali even received a tribute from President Barack Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama. The Obamas grieved for Ali but also said, “we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.” Many people have expressed beautiful sentiments, but perhaps one of the most touching statements was made by Ali’s fellow fighter Mike Tyson when he said, “God came for his champion. So long great one. @MuhammadAli #TheGreatest #RIP.”
Stay tuned to the Inquistr this Friday as we bring you reports from Muhammad Ali’s memorial service.
[Photos by Gabriel Olson and The Stanley Weston Archive/Getty Images]