Lennox Lewis and Will Smith to be pallbearers at Muhammad Ali funeral

BoxingBy Sunday World
A Muhammad Ali tribute mural in London
A Muhammad Ali tribute mural in London

Lennox Lewis has said he is "humbled and honoured" after being asked to be a pallbearer at the funeral of Muhammad Ali.

The former world heavyweight champion will join Hollywood actor Will Smith, who portrayed Ali in the 2001 film about the boxer's life - among the pallbearers.

The others will be Jerry Ellis - the brother of Jimmy Ellis, Ali's former sparring partner and fellow world heavyweight champion - and Ali's cousins John Grady and Jan Wadell, nephew Ibn Ali, former brother-in-law Komawi Ali and family friend John Ramsey.

In a statement Lewis said: "I am humbled, and honoured, beyond words to help see my hero, Muhammad Ali, off to his final resting place.

"Ali has always been an enormous inspiration to me, not only in my boxing career, but also in life. His journey began 74 years ago, and in that time, he not only transformed the world of sport, he used sport to transform the world.

"It's my extreme pleasure, and complete honour, to be asked to help him complete the final steps of his life journey."
Ali, formerly named Cassius Clay, died in Phoenix, Arizona, at the age of 74 on Friday evening local time. He had been admitted to hospital earlier in the week with a respiratory condition having suffered with Parkinson's disease for 32 years. His death was due to septic shock, his family said.

Up to 15,000 people are expected to attend the funeral service in Ali's home town of Louisville, Kentucky on Friday.

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 American actor Billy Crystal are also among the speakers.

His funeral will be preceded by a Jenazah - an Islamic funeral prayer programme - which will also be open to the public at midday on Thursday at the Freedom Hall, where Ali made his professional debut with victory over Tunney Hunsaker in 1960.

Family spokesman Bob Gunnell said: "Everything that we're doing here was blessed by Muhammad Ali, and was requested.

"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."