The tributes continue to pour in as friends, family and the world prepare to say goodbye to Muhammad Ali. Flags in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky have been lowered to half-staff. One Omaha fighter said Ali made boxing “something it had never been before.”
Omaha’s Victory Boxing was quiet on Saturday – silence and remembrance served as tribute.
We caught up with one former fighter and coach who used The Greatest as an example. John Determan said his response to the news of Ali’s death, “was just really sadness,” and said The Champ’s imprint was large. “You know, a boxing icon and a fighter that did so much more than box, for humanity.”
Determan coached at Victory after a career filled with more than 70 bouts. The one they called The Greatest loomed large during his years in the sport.
“You know, I watched a lot of old training tapes of him – the determination and how hard he trained. I wish we could get that passion back in the youth today.”
Posters of Ali are scattered around the gym at victory. The Champ watches as young fighters from the metro try succeed in the ring.
Determan said, “Locally, I think us as boxing coaches, we always look back at the great boxers. The way he could slip punches and the way that he moved on his feet. Any coach who doesn’t take some stuff from Ali should rethink that.”
Determan looks at the success boxing saw with Ali. He sees what fighters like his son Johnny and Terence Crawford are doing. He thinks the sport is close to where it wants to be thanks, in large part, to one bad man.
“Ali changed boxing,” Determan said. “He just made boxing something it had never been before. The average fan, they know it’s coming back. Boxing’s, I think, better than it’s been in the last five or 10 years.”
The three time heavyweight champ made his mark not only in the ring but outside as well as a crusader for civil rights, social justice and peace.
Ali is also famously known for his battle with Parkinson’s. He, along with fellow Parkinson’s advocate Michael J Fox joined forces to spread awareness.
Fox said, “To have actually met him and joined with him in a common cause, in a common fight was, I mean, who else would you want in your corner?”
Ali called himself “The Greatest” and those in the boxing world agreed. Many of the fighters he took on and defeated in the ring have also been paying their respects.
Former boxer Chuck Wepner said, “We lost the greatest. I’ll tell you, that word, that name fit him to a T. He was the greatest.”
Former heavyweight champ George Foreman said, “What a phenomenon. That’s something we won’t see again, I can tell you that.”
Muhammad Ali’s funeral will be Friday, June 10th in in a 22,000 seat arena. The service will include eulogies from President Clinton, and comedian Billy Crystal.