Over 18,000 people gathered in Louisville, Kentucky today for Muhammad Ali’s memorial service, but one of his biggest fans was almost absent.
According to Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell, Mike Tyson was a last-minute addition to the funeral because of a previous commitment. Tyson, who has never been shy of calling Ali the greatest of all-time (unlike some fighters), was reportedly too emotional following Ali’s death — so much so that he didn’t think he could handle the emotions of attending his memorial. However, he had a change of heart and caught a red-eye flight from Las Vegas to Ali’s hometown on Friday to be one of his pallbearers.
“Mike’s grief was immense when he went to Arizona, and Lonnie Ali invited him to come if he could,” Gunnell said.
Joining Tyson in the honor was Will Smith, who played Ali in Michael Mann’s 2001 biographical movie, as well as former heavyweight champion of the world Lennox Lewis and a number of Ali’s close family and friends.
Mike Tyson ,Will Smith and Lennox Lewis. All carried Mohammed Ali’s Final march. Proud all all you guys. pic.twitter.com/l1Ru8yC6wF
— Gary H Goodridge (@garyhgoodridge) June 10, 2016
President Bill Clinton and actor Billy Crystal are expected to make speeches as Ali’s memorial service later this afternoon. President Barack Obama was unable to attend the funeral because of his daughter Malia’s high school graduation ceremony in Washington, D.C. However, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett will read a letter from the President and First Lady at the service.
President Obama also shared a message earlier in the week in honor of Ali, stating: “Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d ‘handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail. But what made The Champ the greatest – what truly separated him from everyone else – is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing.”