Thousands of mourners expected at Muhammad Ali funeral

Turkey’s Erdogan, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Bill Clinton to speak at service Friday

Thousands of mourners, including foreign dignitaries and celebrities, are expected to attend the funeral of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, a family spokesman said Monday.

Bob Gunnell said at a press conference that 33,500 tickets would be available for an Islamic prayer service Thursday at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, and a Friday memorial at KFC Yum! Center – two multi-purpose sports arenas.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be among the speakers Friday alongside former President Bill Clinton, actor Bill Crystal, broadcaster Bryant Gumbel, Ali’s wife, Lonnie, and others, according to Gunnell.

Approximately 18,000 people are expected to join the funeral prayer at Freedom Hall, where Ali defeated Willi Besmanoff in 1961 in his last fight in the city.

A total of 15,500 tickets will be available for the service at the KFC Yum! Center, according to Gunnell, who said details would be released later Monday.

Members of various faiths will speak at the public service, Gunnel noted.

“Everything that we’re doing here was blessed by Muhammad Ali and requested,” Gunnell said. “He wanted the memorial service to reflect his life and how he lived. And he wanted everyone to be able to attend. He was the people’s champ, so we wanted the memorial service to reflect that.”

The service will be led by California imam and scholar Zaid Shakir.

“It’s only fitting that the people have the opportunity to send him off with a very robust commemoration so we thank the family for that,” Shakir said Monday during the same press conference.

The White House is yet to make a decision on President Barack Obama’s attendance.

Ali died Friday in Phoenix, Arizona, from “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes,” Gunnel told reporters Saturday.

He won the heavyweight title three times and was known for his unorthodox fighting style that blended, seed, power and agility.

Outside the ring, he was famous around the globe for his charismatic personality as well as social and political activism. He was 74.