US & Canada

Muhammad Ali: Foreign leaders to attend funeral

Fans of Muhammad Ali leave pictures and personal mementos as they pay their respects at the Ali Center in Louisville on 6 June Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Tributes at the Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville

The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and King Abdullah of Jordan are among the dignitaries scheduled to speak at Muhammad Ali's funeral on Friday, a family spokesman says.

Thousands of people are expected to join the funeral in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

Former US President Bill Clinton and actor Billy Crystal are also set to speak.

Ali died last Friday at the age of 74 in hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.

A spokesman said his death was from "septic shock due to unspecified natural causes".

The three-time world heavyweight champion had been suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson's disease.

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Ali's funeral will take place at a large concert and sports arena, the KFC Yum! Center, from 14:00 (18:00 GMT). The service will be open to the public.

California imam and scholar Zaid Shakir will preside over the service, family spokesman Bob Gunnell said.

Also expected to speak at the ceremony are:

  • Religious representatives from multiple faiths
  • Wife, Lonnie
  • Daughter Maryum
  • Sports journalist Bryant Gumbel

The funeral will be broadcast live on the internet.

Before the ceremony, at 9:00 (13:00 GMT), the coffin will be taken on a procession through the streets of Louisville, passing by locations historically important to Ali.

"Everything that we're doing here was blessed by Muhammad Ali, and was requested," Mr Gunnell told journalists.

"He wanted the memorial service to reflect his life, and how he lived. He wanted everyone to be able to attend. He was the people's champ, and he wanted the memorial service to reflect that."

On Thursday, a traditional Muslim funeral service will be held at Freedom Hall, also open to all. This is where Ali fought and won his first professional fight in 1960. The venue has 18,000 seats.

The boxer will be buried in a private service at the city's Cave Hill Cemetery.

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