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Ali Funeral to be Attended by Bill Clinton, Turkey's Erdogan

  • VOA News

A rose lays next to an image of Muhammad Ali at a makeshift memorial at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, June 5, 2016.

A rose lays next to an image of Muhammad Ali at a makeshift memorial at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, June 5, 2016.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Jordan's King Abdullah II will travel to the U.S. to attend the funeral of American boxing legend Muhammad Ali later this week, a family spokesman says.

Bob Gunnell announced Monday details of Ali's funeral which will be held in the boxer's hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday. The Dalai Lama was invited but sent regrets that he would be unable to attend.

The service will include a public memorial in a multi-purpose sports arena that seats 22,000 people.

It will be open to the public and streamed live on the internet at alicenter.org. There will also be a miles-long procession through the city's streets. On Thursday, there will be a family funeral as well as a Muslim prayer service.

Gunnell said many aspects of the funeral were planned by Ali himself before his death last Friday at the age of 74, following a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

"Everything we're doing here was blessed by Muhammad Ali and was requested," Gunnell said.

He said Ali wanted multiple religions to be represented at the public service, which he said will include ministers from many faiths.

FILE - Former boxer Muhammad Ali, left, hugs former U.S. President Bill Clinton as he walks onstage at the grand opening gala celebration for the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 19, 2005.

FILE - Former boxer Muhammad Ali, left, hugs former U.S. President Bill Clinton as he walks onstage at the grand opening gala celebration for the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Nov. 19, 2005.

"It's very important for us to understand, and I'm sure most people here do, and certainly those viewing, that Muhammad Ali transcended any particular community. He was larger than the Muslim community, larger than the African-American community, larger than the American community. He was a global figure. He was a giant," Gunnell said.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, a longtime friend of Ali's, is scheduled to deliver the eulogy at the public funeral. Also scheduled to speak is actor Billy Crystal and sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, as well as Ali's daughter, Maryum.

Sports fans and admirers of Ali remembered and mourned their hero after it was announced that the former world heavyweight boxing champion, 1960 Olympic light heavyweight gold medalist and social activist had died. A memorial service was already held in Louisville, where the man then known as Cassius Marcellus Clay grew up and learned much of his boxing skills.

Later, after he won the world heavyweight title for the first time as a professional fighter, Clay announced that he had embraced Islam, discarded his forebears' "slave name" and became Muhammad Ali.

An American boxing legend who transcended the sport, Ali was both beloved and controversial. He so dominated professional boxing that Sports Illustrated magazine named him Sportsman of the 20th Century. Known for his boastful, passionate, outspoken style, Ali dubbed himself "The Greatest," and explained his boxing style in just a few words: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."

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