Ali planned how he wished to say goodbye


June 07, 2016
A worker sweeps up around a makeshift memorial to Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center yesterday in Louisville, Kentucky.
AP file photo In this June 5, 1991 photo, former world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali prays in the mosque at his former training camp in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania where he prepared for his biggest fights.


Muhammad Ali and his innermost circle started a document years ago that grew so thick they began calling it "The Book."

Its contents will soon be revealed.

In the pages, the boxing great planned in exacting detail how he wished to say goodbye to the world.

"The message that we'll be sending out is not our message this was really designed by The Champ himself," said Timothy Gianotti, an Islamic studies scholar who for years helped to plan the services.

The 74-year-old three-time heavyweight champion wanted the memorial service in an arena. He wanted multiple religions to have a voice while honouring the traditions of his Muslim faith. And he wanted ordinary fans to attend, not just VIPs.

He was never downcast when talking about his death, said Bob Gunnell, an Ali family spokesman. He recalled Ali's own words during meetings planning the funeral: "It's OK. We're here to do the job the way I want it. It's fine."

shut down

The final revisions were made days before Ali died last Friday at an Arizona hospital, his family by his side.

For years, the plan was to have Ali's body lie in repose at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Gunnell said. That tribute was dropped at the last minute because his wife, Lonnie, worried it would cause the centre to be shut down and knew people would want to gather there in grief.

In its place, a miles-long procession was added that will carry Ali's body across his beloved hometown. It will drive past the museum built in his honour, along the boulevard named after him, and through the neighbourhood where he grew up, raced bicycles and shadowboxed down the streets.

In a city accustomed to capturing the world's attention for just two minutes during the Kentucky Derby each year, Ali's memorial service Friday looms as one of the most historic events in Louisville's history. Former presidents, heads of nations from around the globe, movie stars, and sports greats will descend upon the city to pay final respect to The Louisville Lip.

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