Muhammad Ali to be buried after final journey through hometown
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (CNN) — A funeral procession for Muhammad Ali will travel through his hometown, passing by his childhood home to the first boxing gym where he trained — the places where the legendary boxer spent his early, formative years.
After the morning procession, The Greatest will be laid to rest Friday.
Throngs of supporters are expected to line the streets of his final journey, including Muhammad Ali Boulevard, as the procession starts at 9 a.m. ET through Louisville. The 16 to 18 car procession is scheduled to pass the Ali Center, go by his childhood home, weave past Central High where he graduated and then continue to the Columbia Gym where he first trained.
The 90-minute procession will end at the Cave Hill Cemetery, where he will be buried in a private ceremony.
Actor Will Smith, who played the title role in the 2001 film “Ali,” and former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis will be among eight pallbearers, according to organizers.
Ali died at the age of 74 a week ago. Three days of funeral proceedings began Wednesday with a downtown festival called “I Am Ali.”
It was Ali who planned his own funeral, laying out plans several years back. True to his giant character, he wanted it as open as possible — with a chance for his fans to say goodbye. Several of the events, including Thursday’s prayer service, Friday’s procession and memorial service, were made available to the public. In that spirit of openness, Friday’s memorial service, which begins at 2 p.m., will be streamed live from www.alicenter.org.
Former President Bill Clinton, sportscaster Bryant Gumbel and comedian Billy Crystal are among those expected to deliver eulogies. Clinton awarded Ali the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001. Both Crystal and Gumbel shared a friendship with the boxer that spanned decades.
Eulogies will also be delivered by Ali’s widow Lonnie Ali, his daughter Maryum Ali, University of Louisville student Natasha Mundkur and family friend John Ramsey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to attend the ceremony.
The memorial service will be held at the KFC Yum! Center arena, where Ali began his amateur boxing career as a 12-year-old. The arena holds up to 22,000 people. Many of the public attendees started lining up on Tuesday for a chance to get tickets.
The high demand fueled scalpers who were trying to profit from selling funeral tickets. Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell had called their attempts to cash in “despicable” and “deplorable.”
The service embraces many religious faiths including an opening reading from the Quran by scholar and the family’s religious adviser Iman Shakir. Then a Protestant minister, two rabbis, a representative from the Catholic Church, a representative from the Buddhist religion and Sen. Orrin Hatch (representing the Mormon faith) will speak, followed by a poetry reading.
World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and pallbearer, Lennox Lewis told CNN that Ali gave an enduring message to kids.
“It was a serious time in American history,” Lewis said. “And he taught, he gave a lot of young kid and kids that have no money, he gave them hope and he told them that they were beautiful as well. So everyone can remember Muhammad Ali using that term — ‘You’re beautiful.'”