Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Three years ago this month Muhammed Ali went home. Muhammed Ali was a hero to many people around the world. The first time I watched Muhammed Ali on television I was eight years old. My brothers and I would huddle around our colored television in the living room with our dad. Dad would always predict the outcome of Muhammed Ali’s fights. My friends and I would go down to the gym in the housing project located in the basement of the community center.
Muhammed was gifted as a fighter and he had the ability to predict what round he could finish a fight in. Ali’s hand speed was the fastest ever seen on a heavyweight until recently. The passing of “The Greatest” was a great loss and a sad day for the world. I decided to take a road trip to Louisville, Kentucky. I arrived in Louisville on June 9. I settled into the hotel I would stay at for four days. As I waited in Louisville for the funeral of Muhammed Ali, I went to the news stand in the lobby of the hotel to purchase the local paper.
The local newspaper had a map in the insert of the paper. This map detailed the route where the funeral procession would travel on its way to the burial site of Muhammed Ali. I decided to follow the route of the map on the day before his burial, as I wanted to see how many places Muhammed had touched during his life. The City of Louisville was flooded with vendors from all over the world. They were selling memorabilia with Muhammed Ali’s name on T– shirts, hats, coffee mugs, blankets, buttons, and just about anything else you could put Muhammed Ali’s name on.
Many people saw his death as an opportunity to cash in. My first stop was the KFC Yum! Center, in downtown Louisville. This would be the site of the funeral the next day. There were fans and people everywhere placing flowers and memorabilia on the very large memorial that was set up by the fans. The love and admiration the fans showed for Muhammed Ali was remarkable. I was able to photograph one of Muhammad Ali’s daughters, Rasheda, taking pictures with fans at the memorial site. I photographed actor Leon Isaac Kennedy signing autographs for his fans.
On Friday morning, I journeyed from my hotel to the KFC YUM! Center to pick up my credentials for the memorial later that day. When I stopped for breakfast at the McDonald’s in the town, I met a man named Albert Bell who was born and raised in Louisville. He stated that he is friends with Ali’s brother Rudy. Bell spoke of the respect he had for Muhammad Ali and his family. Ali and Rudy loved to talk to people. They were very “humble people who treated everyone the same whether you were poor or rich it didn’t matter to them,” said Bell.
I decided to venture uptown to Muhammad Ali’s childhood house on Grand Avenue. The childhood home would be the last stop on the map before traveling to the grave resting place of the funeral procession. After I arrived on Grand Avenue, I could see thousands of people crowded on both sides of the narrow street. There were news teams from all over the world parked on the front lawns of home owners, in their driveways and on the curbside. People had signs displaying their love and respect for the “Champ.” As the funeral procession hearse turned onto Grand Avenue, the crowd went wild chanting “Ali, Ali, Champ” “Ali is the Greatest.”
I will never forget the experience I had while attending the going home ceremony of “The Greatest.” He’s gone but will never be forgotten.