Grand celebrations await 'big kid' Ali

Grand celebrations await 'big kid' Ali

Milestone man

Muhammad Ali is turning 70, but the boxing great is still a “big kid” who enjoys his birthday parties, his wife said.

The three-time heavyweight champion reaches the milestone on Tuesday, but the festivities will start early. Ali will be surrounded by friends who are gathering Saturday evening for a private birthday party at the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville. “Muhammad likes celebrations that involve him and are centered around him,” Lonnie Ali told reporters before giving a speech Friday at the Ali Center. “He’s still a big kid in that area. He loves birthdays.”

Lonnie said it’s the first of five parties for her husband over the next couple of months. Other parties will be in Las Vegas, California and Arizona, she said.

“That’s the way to celebrate your 70th,” she said.

She said the champ will be surrounded by close friends and people who have been fixtures in his life at the party on Saturday night, including his famed trainer Angelo Dundee. The party is doubling as a USD1,000 per person fundraiser for the center, a cultural and education complex that also features a museum focusing on Ali’s long career as a boxer, social activist and humanitarian.

“The lessons this man knows innately ... are the things we’re trying to pass on to future generations, to encourage them to be great and find greatness within like Muhammad as a young man here in Louisville,” Lonnie Ali said.

Cynthia White, who travels the world through her job with the Louisville-based Presbyterian
Church (USA), said Ali’s influence remains powerful in remote places around the globe, decades after his boxing career ended.

White, who attended Lonnie’s speech, afterward recalled visiting a village in Uganda several years ago. When people found out she was from Louisville, a young boy started shadowboxing and chanting Ali’s name, she said.

“Muhammad Ali is still a real force in the lives of children and adults around the world,” she said. “In the face of adversity, this man just perseveres,” Ali’s wife said of her husband during her speech.

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