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 love and the reverence and the inclusivity that we’re going to experience over the coming days is really a reflection of his message to the people of planet Earth.”
The 74-year-old three-time heavyweight champion wanted the memorial service in an arena. He wanted multiple religions to have a voice while honoring 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.”
The final revisions were made days before Ali died 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 center 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 honor, along the boulevard named after him and through the neighborhood where he grew up, raced bicycles and shadowboxed down the streets.
Former President Bill Clinton, a longtime friend, will deliver the eulogy at the funeral at the KFC Yum! Center, where the 15,000 seats are likely to be filled.
Ali’s burial will be in Cave Hill Cemetery, the final resting place for many of the city’s most prominent residents. The luminaries include Colonel Harlan Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, whose granite memorial features a bust of the goateed entrepreneur.
Ali’s gravesite will far more subdued, in contrast to his oversized personality and life. A modest marker, in accord with Muslim tradition, is planned, said his attorney, Ron Tweel. He would not say what words will be inscribed on the marker.SHOW MORE