Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Big kid'Ali kicks off 70th birthday party

Muhammad Ali is about to turn 70, but the boxing great is still a "big kid" who enjoys his birthday parties, his wife has said.

The three-times heavyweight champion reaches the milestone on Tuesday, but the festivities will start early.

Ali will be surrounded by friends who are gathering this evening for a private birthday party at the Muhammad Ali Centre in his hometown of Louisville.

"Muhammad likes celebrations that involve him at Kentucky, and are centred around him," Lonnie Ali said today before giving a speech at the Ali Centre. "He's still a big kid in that area. He loves birthdays."


Lonnie Ali 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 tomorrow night, including his famed trainer Angelo Dundee.

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

White, who attended Lonnie Ali's speech, 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. Ali, who is battling Parkinson's disease, is largely absent from the public eye now.

His party will include performances by singer John Mellencamp and others. The guest list includes three-times heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis.


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