Muhammad Ali to be honoured at Las Vegas birthday bash
Boxer Joe Frazier, left, hits Muhammad Ali during the 15th round of their heavyweight title fight at New York's Madison Square Garden in this March 8, 1971 file photo. (AP, File)
Published Saturday, February 18, 2012 11:49AM EST
LAS VEGAS - Muhammad Ali had seven fights in Las Vegas, with his two losses there coming in the twilight of his legendary career. Now, dozens of heavyweight celebrities are back in Sin City to laud a lifetime in the spotlight and join the icon known as "The Greatest" in fighting neurological diseases.
Roughly 2,000 people were expected to attend a gala event to celebrate Ali's 70th birthday Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the site of most of boxing's major fights the past 20 years. Ali turned 70 last month, and had another celebration and fundraiser then in his home state of Kentucky.
One of Ali's daughters, Rasheda Ali, says the event is a chance for friends, family and A-listers who look up to her father to show their respect for his life and legacy as a humanitarian. In return, she says he'll be honoured to see them there.
"He has not left that need to help others," Rasheda Ali said. "That's one of his core values -- his charity and his giving."
The gala starting at US$1,500 per plate is expected to draw some of the biggest names in entertainment and sports -- including David Beckham, Anthony Hopkins, Samuel L. Jackson and Stevie Wonder, among others. They're planning performances and tributes to a fighter who went 56-5 in the ring with 37 knockouts and became perhaps the most famous athlete ever because of his personality and willingness to publicly stand up for his beliefs.
Ali has lived with Parkinson's disease for nearly 30 years, a degenerative brain condition that some doctors say can be brought on by punches to the head.
The gala will raise fund for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky., a cultural attraction that celebrates Ali's life and pushes educational goals on a wide range of topics for adults and children.
Larry Ruvo, chairman of the clinic's fundraising arm, Keep Memory Alive, said he's not sure whether the fundraiser will exceed its record of $27 million, but he hopes so.