Muhammad Ali pallbearers will include Will Smith and Lennox Lewis

Muhammad Ali, Will Smith
Actor Will Smith, right, jokes with boxing great Muhammad Ali before the start of the Shane Mosley-Oscar De La Hoya fight on June 17, 2000.
(Laura Rauch / Associated Press)

Actor Will Smith and former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis will be among the eight pallbearers at Muhammad Ali’s memorial service Friday in Louisville, Ky.

The legendary boxer died June 3 following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Other pallbearers at the service will include Jerry Ellis — brother of the late Jimmy Ellis, who was Ali’s former sparring partner and former world heavyweight champion — and several relatives and close friends.

Smith received an Oscar nomination for playing the title role in the 2001 movie “Ali.”

Smith spoke of the honor of portraying Ali while presenting Jack Nicklaus with the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award last year at Sports Illustrated magazine’s annual Sportsperson of the Year dinner.

“For nearly two years, I worked to transform myself into the man who changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and shook up the world. That’s really what makes my job so beautiful as an actor,” Smith said.

“For four or five months at a time, I get to wear people’s lives, so I got to wear Muhammad Ali’s greatness. I got to study and feel and embody the soul of the man. From the foundations of Islam and the strength of his Muslim faith and his life to the beautiful wake that he always leaves in his magnificent path.”

Lewis, 50, told Sky Sports of Ali, “He was like family, like a father.”

The retired fighter posted a moving tribute to Ali on his website:

“Words cannot begin to describe the loss we all face in the passing of one of the greatest citizens this world has ever known. Boxing has lost its greatest ambassador and the world has lost one of its greatest voices.

“Today, we stand far removed from his battles in the ring, but we will never be able to stand far away from the benefits of his battles against discrimination, oppression, hunger and human rights, in America, and around the world.

“His courage to stand up for his beliefs, his people, and his convictions, at a time, in American history, when a messenger like him was sorely needed, separates him from the rest.

“Ali fought battles that I will never know, so those that came after him, would never have to. He paved the way for the success of ALL of today’s sports superstars and instilled a sense of pride and responsibility inside of me, and generations of youth, around the world.

“He was my source of inspiration, and along with my other hero, Nelson Mandela, served as a shining example of grace, dignity, and courage, through a lifetime of service to others. Those who would question his greatness have no understanding of the technical brilliance he brought into the ring, the courage he displayed outside of it, the voice he gave to the voiceless, or the risk he faced in order to do so.

“Because of Ali, the sport of boxing has given many, including myself, more than they could ever dream of. Ali gave to the sport of boxing, more than it could ever repay!

“My deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the Ali family at this extremely difficult time. We share in your loss, our hearts grieve with your hearts, and our love is here for you to lean on.”


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