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.”

Tyson, 54, to return for exhibition match against Jones Jr.

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CARSON, Calif. — Mike Tyson is coming back to boxing at age 54.

The former heavyweight champion will meet four-division champion Roy Jones Jr. in an eight-round exhibition match on Sept. 12 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history when he won the title in 1986 at age 20 and for a time was the most feared fighter in boxing. But his career became littered with distractions and he hasn’t boxed since 2005 after losing his second straight fight.

He has occasionally teased a return with workout videos and it’s finally scheduled to happen.

Jones, 51, won titles in the middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight before moving up to win the heavyweight title in 2003, becoming the first former middleweight champion to do so in 106 years.

The event will air on pay-per-view and the social media music platform Triller. Further matches on the card and musical entertainment will be announced in the coming weeks.

Boxer Errol Spence in ICU after Ferrari crash in Dallas

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DALLAS — Welterweight boxing champion Errol Spence crashed a speeding Ferrari in Dallas early Thursday and was badly injured but is expected to survive, police said.

The crash happened just before 3 a.m., when Spence’s Ferrari crossed a median into oncoming traffic and flipped over several times, police said.

Spence was taken to a hospital, where he was placed in the intensive care unit. Police said they’re still investigating the cause of the crash, but they noted that the Ferrari was speeding at the time.

Last month, the former U.S. Olympian added the WBC welterweight title to his IBF strap with a thrilling split-decision victory over Shawn Porter in Los Angeles.

With his rangy athleticism and virtuosic skill, Spence (26-0) has captured fans with a series of crisp victories in recent years. He won the IBF title in 2017 by stopping Kell Brook in England, and he defended it three times, culminating in a one-sided thrashing of undersized Mikey Garcia in March.

His bout with the veteran brawler Porter (30-3-1) was Spence’s biggest test yet, and he emerged victorious from a fight that featured several wild exchanges of punches and had the Staples Center crowd of 16,702 on its feet throughout the 12th round, roaring for both fighters when they embraced after the final bell.