Muhammad Ali laid to rest in huge Louisville funeral

Barack Obama led the tributes to Muhammad Ali as 100,000 people lined the streets of Louisville to say farewell to ‘The Greatest’.

The President described Ali, who died at the age of 74 on June 3, as “one of a kind”, and said: “In my book, he’ll always be the greatest.”

Chants of “Ali! Ali!” were heard along the 19-mile route as the hearse travelled across the fighter’s home town

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The casket, covered in a cloth bearing Arabic writing, was placed into the hearse by pallbearers, who included Hollywood star Will Smith and former boxers Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson, before it left the funeral home.

The procession then travelled along Muhammad Ali Boulevard, passing the Muhammad Ali Centre and his childhood home as fans threw flowers towards the vehicle carrying Ali’s body.

As huge crowds waited in sweltering heat for the procession to pass, some of Ali’s family and friends in the cars following the hearse waved to people watching from the roadside.

The procession ended at Cave Hill Cemetery, where a private burial took place.

In a video message, Obama said: “It’s very rare when a figure captures the imagination of the entire world. It’s even rarer when that figure does so by being open and funny and generous and courageous.”

Former US president Bill Clinton delivered the eulogy, while Ali’s widow Lonnie and two of his nine children, daughters Rasheda and Maryum, also addressed the congregation.

Clinton said: “I think he decided very young to write his own life story. He decided he would never be dis-empowered. I will always think of Muhammad as a truly free man of faith.

“It is the choices that Muhammad Ali made that brought us here today in honour and love. We should honour him by letting our gifts go among the world.”

Speaking ahead of the funeral, former world heavyweight boxing champion Lewis said it was a “privilege” and an “honour” to be involved in the ceremony.

He said: “We’re laying to rest another king – the greatest.

“He was the only one that floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. I think he’s in a better place right now.”

 

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