Ali coming home as ‘citizen’ of world for Louisville funeral

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) In a funeral he planned years ago, Muhammad Ali will be coming home as a “citizen of the world” when he is buried Friday in Louisville.

A procession will carry his body down an avenue that bears his name, through his boyhood neighborhood and down Broadway, the scene of the parade that honored the brash young man – then known as Cassius Clay – for his gold medal at the 1960 Olympics.

Funeral details were outlined by family spokesman Bob Gunnell at a news conference Saturday in Scottsdale, Arizona, not far from Ali’s home in his final years.

The family “certainly believes that Muhammad was a citizen of the world … and they know that the world grieves with him,” Gunnell said.

Family members will accompany Ali’s remains to Louisville within the next two days. A private funeral ceremony will be held Thursday.

After the Friday procession, a memorial service open to everyone will be held at Louisville’s KFC YUM! Center. The list of eulogists was not complete, but will include former President Bill Clinton, comedian Billy Crystal – who famously has done a masterful impression of Ali – and sports television host Bryant Gumbel.

The ceremony will be led by an imam in the Muslim tradition but will include representatives of other faiths. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch will represent Mormons.

“Muhammad Ali was clearly the people’s champion,” Gunnell said, “and the celebration will reflect his devotion to people of all races, religions and backgrounds.”

Ai’s wife, Lonnie, and his children had 24 hours to say goodbye to him, Gunnell said.

The 74-year-old boxing great died at 12:10 a.m. EDT Saturday, the spokesman said, of “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes” after three decades of Parkinson’s disease.

In Louisville, not even pouring rain Saturday could stop the flood of tributes for “The Greatest.”

In the three-time heavyweight champion’s old neighborhood, brother Rahaman Ali stood in a small house on Grand Avenue and dabbed his eyes as he shook hand after hand. The visitors had come from as far away as Georgia and as near as down the street.

“God bless you all,” the 72-year-old Rahaman said to each.

Ali’s death held special meaning in Louisville, where he was the city’s favorite son.

“He was one of the most honorable, kindest men to live on this planet,” his brother said while greeting mourners at their childhood home, recently renovated and turned into a museum.

Cars lined both sides of the Louisville street where Ali grew up. The guests piled flowers and boxing gloves around the marker designating it a historical site. They were young and old, black and white, friends and fans.

Another makeshift memorial grew outside the Muhammad Ali Center downtown, a museum built in tribute to Ali’s core values: respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, charity, spirituality.

“Muhammad Ali belongs to the world,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said at a memorial service outside Metro Hall. “But he only has one hometown.”

Rahaman recalled what Ali was like as a boy named Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., long before he became the most famous man in the world, the Louisville Lip, celebrated as much for his grace and his words as his lightning-fast feet and knockout punch.

In their little pink house in Louisville’s west end, the brothers liked to wrestle and play cards and shoot hoops.

“He was a really sweet, kind, loving, giving, affectionate, wonderful person,” Rahaman said, wearing a cap that read “Ali,” the last letter formed by the silhouette of a boxer ready to pounce.

When he was 12 years old, Ali had a bicycle that was stolen and he told a police officer he wanted to “whoop” whoever took it, Fischer said at the memorial service. The officer told him he’d have to learn how to box first.

Daniel Wilson was one year behind Ali at Central High School and remembered he was so committed to his conditioning that he didn’t get on the school bus like everybody else. Instead, he ran along beside it, three miles all the way to school each morning.

“The kids on the bus would be laughing and Ali would be laughing too,” he recalled at the Grand Avenue home.

Ruby Hyde arrived at the memorial holding an old black-and-white framed photo of a young Ali. She’d been a water girl at his amateur bouts as a teenager in Louisville, and seen even then that there was something special, something cerebral, about the way he fought. Years later, he came back to the old neighborhood as a heavyweight champ, driving a Cadillac with the top down.

“All the kids jumped in and he rode them around the block,” she remembered.

He never forgot where he came from, she said.

“He’s done so much for Louisville. He’s given us so much,” said Kitt Liston, who as girl growing up in Louisville admired Ali’s unblinking fight for justice and peace. “He’s truly a native son. He’s ours.”

Liston’s voice trembled as she recounted running into him at a baseball game a few years ago.

“I got to tell him how much I cared about him. He put that big ol’ paw out and just shook my hand,” she said. “He just had time for everybody.”

The mayor ordered the city’s flags at half-staff.

Outside Metro Hall, Fischer pointed west, toward Ali’s childhood home, about three miles away in one of the city’s poorest zip codes.

“There can only be one Muhammad Ali, but his journey from Grand Avenue to global icon serves as a reminder that there are young people with the potential for greatness in the houses and neighborhoods all over our city, our nation, our world,” he said.

Fischer told mourners to teach all children Ali’s legacy: that a kid from Kentucky can grow up to be “The Greatest.”

“That’s how we become champions,” he said. “Muhammad Ali has shown us the way.”

Pacquiao plans to return to the ring Nov. 5

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Manny Pacquiao isn’t ready to give up his night job just yet.

Pacquiao, who said before his last fight in April that he would retire, now plans to return to the ring in November against an opponent who has yet to be selected.

Promoter Bob Arum said Tuesday that Pacquiao got permission to take a break from his new duties as a senator in the Philippines to take another fight. It will be held Nov. 5, likely in Las Vegas.

“He likes to fight and he likes the attention,” Arum said of Pacquiao’s return.

Pacquiao looked impressive in his last fight in April, returning from a layoff to knock down Timothy Bradley on his way to a unanimous decision. After the fight he wavered on his previous plans to retire.

“If you ask me to come back I don’t know,” Pacquiao said. “I may be enjoying retired life. I’m not there yet so I just don’t know.”

Pacquiao, who was formerly a congressman in his native country, was elected to the Senate in May and there were fears that increased duties would prevent him from fighting again.

But Arum said the head of the Senate told Pacquiao he was free to fight after the country’s budget is settled on Oct. 15.

“He would train in the Philippines and leave on the 16th to come to the U.S., train for two weeks and then come to Vegas,” Arum said. “The only issue is getting an arena for the fight.”

Arum said he is talking with MGM Resorts about an arena to host the fight. He had reserved the Mandalay Bay arena for Oct. 15, but Pacquaio can’t leave his Senate duties that early.

The fight also could be at the UNLV campus arena, he said, though UNLV would have to move a scheduled basketball exhibition from the date.

There were reports that Pacquiao might fight Adrien Broner, but Arum said he wanted the same money as Pacquiao, which was a non-starter. Another possible opponent would be Jesse Vargas, who fights for Top Rank, and holds a piece of the welterweight title.

Pacquiao was off for nearly a year after losing in May 2015 to Floyd Mayweather Jr., healing from a shoulder injury. But he seemed reinvigorated after beating Bradley in April in a performance that got good reviews from most, including trainer Freddie Roach.

“When I see Manny Pacquiao like that, this is the best Manny Pacquiao,” Roach said after the fight. “He hasn’t missed a beat. I would like to see him fight again.”

Laila Ali, Jaime Foxx pay tribute to Muhammad Ali

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Laila Ali paid tribute to her late father, sports icon Muhammad Ali, during the BET Awards on Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

Ali, a retired boxer herself, started to choke up as she spoke about her father’s legacy and the outpouring of support since his death at the age of 74 on June 3 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“My father, Muhammad Ali, lived his life with conviction and purpose,” Ali said. “He is known as the greatest athlete of all time, a man who fearlessly faced opposition both in and outside the ring.”

Actor Jamie Foxx, who starred in the 2001 biopic about the icon’s life, “Ali,” as Ali’s cornerman Drew Bundini Brown, also spoke about the legend, noting that he stood up when no one else was doing so.

After getting a standing ovation, Ali stood in front of a photo of her father holding her as an infant and talked about her father’s evolution in his heart, mind and spirit over the course of his lifetime.

“These past few weeks my father’s generosity and love has been matched by a worldwide outpouring of love and reverence for him and our entire family,” Ali said.

“If he was here today, he would humbly ask you to pray not just for our family, but for all of mankind.”