Actor Will Smith to be a Muhammad Ali pallbearer

Actor Will Smith and former world heavyweight boxing champion, Lennox Lewis, will be pallbearers at legendary boxer Muhammad Ali’s funeral.

Smith, who portrayed Ali in a 2001 film, and Lewis will be among 15,000 people expected to attend the funeral in Ali’s home town of Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday.

The other pallbearers include Jerry Ellis, the brother of Ali’s sparring partner and former world heavyweight champion, Jimmy Ellis, Ali’s cousin, John Grady, his nephew, Ibn Ali, his former brother-in-law, Komawi Ali, Ali’s cousin, Jan Wadell, and family friend, John Ramsey.

Former US president, Bill Clinton, Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and King Abdullah II of Jordan are expected to address the service, at the KFC Yum! Centre, which will be open to the public and live-streamed on the internet.

Malcolm X’s daughter, Attalah Shabazz, Ali’s wife, Lonnie Ali, his eldest daughter, Maryum, and actor Billy Crystal will also be among the speakers.

Ali’s funeral will be preceded by a Jenazah — an Islamic funeral prayer programme — which will also be open to the public, at midday local time, tomorrow, at the Freedom Hall, where Ali made his professional debut, with a victory over Tunney Hunsaker, in 1960.

Family spokesman, Bob Gunnell, said 15,000 people were expected to attend the service at the Yum! Centre, while 14,000 tickets will be be available to the public for the Jenazah.

“Everything that we’re doing here was blessed by Muhammad Ali, and was requested,” Gunnell said.

“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.

“We want this to be inclusive of everyone. That’s why we set Freedom Hall — not just with its historical significance — but with the size of Freedom Hall, so that everyone fits in.

“That Muslims and people of all faiths could attend, and perhaps learn more, and be like Muhammad Ali, and open their hearts to everybody. This is not a political statement, this is not about politics, this is about how Muhammad Ali lived his life.”

Ali, formerly named Cassius Clay, died of septic shock due to “unspecified natural causes”, Gunnell said.

He had been admitted to hospital earlier in the week with a respiratory condition, having suffered with Parkinson’s disease for 32 years.


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