Tributes cover the pavements of Louisville in memory of boxing legend Muhammad Ali as actor Will Smith and former boxing world champion Lennox Lewis prepare to serve as pallbearers at the funeral.
The Kentucky city will welcome former US President Bill Clinton, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and actor Billy Crystal among thousands of mourners expected at the public funeral on Friday.
“It was selfish for us to think that we could hold on to him forever so our job now as a city is to send him off with the class and dignity and respect that he deserves,” Greg Fischer, Louisville mayor said.
Presiding over the service will be California-based scholar and imam, Zaid Shaki who said: “Muhammad Ali transcended any particular community. He was a global figure. He is a giant. And I think it’s only fitting that all communities, all nations have an opportunity to participate in this last episode.”
Ali is internationally recognised as one of the greatest boxers of all time. His funeral is to be broadcast live on the Internet.
The Louisville funeral to be held at the 18,000-seat Freedom Hall that hosted Ali’s last fight in Louisville against Willi Besmanoff in 1961, will be preceded on Thursday by a family funeral and an Islamic prayer service.
The following day, Ali’s coffin which arrived in the city on Sunday aboard a private plane accompanied by his wife and other relatives, will be paraded through the streets for fans from around the world to say goodbye.
According to family spokesperson, Muhammad Ali’s funeral is “open to everybody” on Friday when the boxing legend’s life will be celebrated.