“The Greatest” boxer in history, Muhammad Ali, was laid to rest in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky on Friday.
Friends and family transferred a red casket carrying Ali from a funeral home to a special limousine, or hearse.
Among those carrying Ali’s body were former boxers Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis and Hollywood star Will Smith. Also taking part were all of Ali's nine children, along with his wife, two ex-wives and other family members.
Ali, 74, died one week ago in an Arizona hospital after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
The hearse carried Ali’s body on a long and winding path through the streets of Louisville. The procession of limousines at one point drove along the street named for the champ, Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
The journey followed parts of the city that were important in Ali’s life. These included the small pink house where he grew up and the large museum and cultural center named after him.
Crowds gathered along the entire path to offer their final goodbyes. Some waved to the car, while others held up signs with personal messages for the boxing champion.
Some fans ran alongside the hearse and imitated Ali’s boxing moves and chanted. Many people placed flowers on the passing car.
Louisville police estimated that more than 100,000 people viewed the funeral procession throughout the city.
The procession ended in the afternoon at Cave Hill cemetery, where a private graveside burial ceremony was held. A stone at the gravesite will be inscribed with a single word, “Ali.” A family spokesman said the simple design reflects the Islamic tradition.
After the burial, more than 15,000 people gathered for an interfaith memorial service at Louisville’s KFC Yum Center. Tickets to the event were free.
Attendees included former U.S. President Bill Clinton, boxers Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, Jordan's King Abdullah II, actor Will Smith, comedian Billy Crystal and soccer star David Beckham.
One of the speakers was a pastor from a local Baptist church, Reverend Kevin Cosby. He said Ali “dared to affirm the power and capacity” of African Americans.
“Before James Brown said I’m black and proud, Muhammad Ali said I’m black and I’m pretty,” Cosby said.
“He dared to love America’s most unloved race. And he loved us all and we loved him, because we knew he loved us, he loved us all. Whether you lived in the suburbs or whether you lived in the slums,” he added.
Ali planned his own funeral with family members over the past 10 years, according to family spokesman Bob Gunnell. The family said the boxing legend wanted the service to honor his Muslim faith, while also fitting in to Western culture.
A traditional Muslim service was held Thursday at Louisville’s Kentucky Exposition Center. Thousands from around the world gathered there to pray and mourn the man they repeatedly called “the people’s champion.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the Muslim service. He was also planning to take part in Friday’s funeral, but decided to cut short his U.S. visit and return home. His office did not give an explanation for the change in plans.
Erdogan praised Ali as a "voice of the oppressed" during a dinner hosted by Turks and other Muslims living in the U.S., his office said.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for Learning English. Additional information came from the Associated Press and Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
imitate – adj. to copy someone’s behavior or appearance
inscribe – v. write of carve works onto something
interfaith – adj. involving people of different religions
affirm – v. validate or confirm
oppressed – adj. treated cruelly, usually under excessive authority of power