More than 300 people serenaded boxing icon Muhammad Ali with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday on Saturday at a lavish US$1,000-a-plate fundraiser and party in his Kentucky hometown.
Ali, who is one of the world’s most recognizable sportsman, turns 70 tomorrow. The former three-time world heavyweight champ now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, which doctors have said could be a result of his boxing career.
The fund-raiser was held at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville and is part of the facility’s “Seven Days for Seven Decades” program of community activities.
Ali moved slowly, but at times walked on his own as he mingled and waved to attendees. When he was not walking by himself, he was assisted by his wife Lonnie.
Besides relatives, the guest list included Ali’s former trainer, Angelo Dundee, and three US hikers who were once jailed in Iran. Ali, who is Muslim, had pushed the Iran government for their release.
Rock star John Mellencamp, whose son is a boxer, performed at the event.
Ali, who was born Cassius Clay in Louisville on Jan. 17, 1942, owns homes in Arizona and Michigan as well as in Louisville.
In November, the heavyweight great was briefly hospitalized in Phoenix, Arizona, where doctors treated him for dehydration.