Muhammad Ali’s brother has taken centre stage at a Sunday worship service at the church where their father was a longtime member in Louisville, Kentucky.
An emotional Rahaman Ali clapped and swayed to hymns and hugged members of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church in Louisville’s west end. The church features a painting by Ali’s father, Cassius Clay Sr., and isn’t far from the pink house where the boxing champion grew up.
Ali’s younger brother put his hand to his face, overcome with emotion, as church members paid tribute to his brother, who died late Friday in an Arizona hospital.
During the two-hour service, assistant pastor Charles Elliott III asked the congregation to stand to honour Muhammad Ali. In his tribute, Elliott said “there is no great man that has done more for this city than Muhammad Ali.’’
Elliott’s father, the Rev. Charles Elliott Jr., knew Muhammad Ali for decades. He recalled Ali’s generosity in support of an anti-hunger programme in the city.
Famed fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco once said, “Cassius Clay was born in Louisville. Muhammad Ali was born in Miami.’’
Ali trained on Miami Beach in the early days of his pro career at the 5th Street Gym, a student of Hall of Famer Angelo Dundee. The building where they worked is long gone, knocked down in the early 1990s. But the gym, at least a new version of it, still exists in Miami Beach, with photos of Ali on the walls – partly to pay homage to the past, partly to inspire the fighters who train there now.
“He will always establish a standard of excellence, both in the ring and as a personality,’’ said Dino Spencer, who now runs the 5th Street Gym – which to this day hosts a boxing class named for Ali, who was the guest of honour when the gym reopened in 2010. “He got some people to hate him and some people to love him. That’s a lot, to affect everybody. Fighters will always strive for the reactions he had. Most will never come close.’’