tv ABC World News ABC June 4, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
he was assassinated but never mailed. see you later. >> reporter: welcome to "world news tonight." remembering the greatest of all-time, muhammad ali, boxing legend, civil right champion, american icon, from the power and grace that made him a heavyweight titan, to the razor sharp wit that made him a star. >> i'm so mean i make medicine sick. >> the new details about the final moments. family right there, how they said good-bye. his hometown now preparing for an epic farewell, who will be there to lead the tribute. and the woman by his side telling our diane sawyer how they met all those years ago. tonight the tributes from those he grew up with to those he battled in the ring. >> i got beat up in the jungle.
>> and the millions he inspired around the world. good evening and thank you for joining us on this saturday. i'm cecilia vega. tonight, the good-byes are pouring in for an american icon. a man who was perhaps the greatest fighter of all time, whose courage and whose principles changed sports and our nation. in his hometown of louisville, kentucky, the memorials for humid ali grow ing tonight and preparations are under way for what will be a historic good-bye. we know his family was at his bedside in his final moment. they said a prayer and held hands. his daughter saying today, our hearts are literally hurting. those hands made ali a world champion, winning a gold medal at 18 and three heavyweight titles. the tributes coming from all corners after ali lost his fight against parkinson's disease. president obama posting this photo, ali towering over him. the president saying muhammad ali shook up the world and the world is better for it.
we're all better for it. tonight we celebrate that life and legacy. abc's jim avila begins team coverage outside phoenix, arizona. >> reporter: a private emotional farewell, his family by his hospital bed for a full day as muhammad ali slips away, cause of death septic shock, natural causes after a 30 year battle with parkinson's disease. his daughter hana tweeting, "dad did not go easily." ali's heart beating 30 minutes after his other organs failed. "we all tried to stay strong and whispered in his ear, "you can go now. we will be okay." ali saying his goodbyes with a squeeze of the hand. longtime friend john ramsey in an adjoining room giving comfort. >> i think it was daddy, we're okay. you know, daddy. it's okay. so they didn't want him to fight anymore. >> reporter: tributes and condolences from around the world. george foreman, ali's victim in zaire's "rumble in the jungle" fight.
>> zaire's "rumble in the jungle" fight. >> i got beat up in the jungle. >> reporter: ali won his second heavyweight championship that night. >> too late! it's over. muhammad ali with an 8th round knockout! >> reporter: the upset victim on bbc radio. >> what a night. i was in the ring with one of the greatest human beings i've ever known in my life. >> reporter: michael jordan, "muhammad ali was bigger than sports and larger than life. reverend jesse jackson, "when heros win, people ride on their shoulders. we rode on muhammad ali's shoulders." and from michael j. fox who suffers from and fought parkinson's by ali's side. >> even when it was difficult for him, he showed up. >> reporter: ali was diagnosed with parkinson's in 1984, just a small tremble in his right arm. in his last years he looked frail and slumped over. the body was wasting away but not his spirit. >> the world will miss that kind of compassion and that level of kindness. that was real.
>> and jim avila joins us now live from phoenix. jim, you're hearing that there will be some big names at that funeral paying their respects to the champ, huh? >> reporter: it's going to be a huge event which will feature a slow walk procession through downtown louisville and down muhammad ali boulevard. at the event itself, he'll be eulogized by president bill clinton, comedian billy crystal and also bryant gumbel, a tv host. it is an event that's a great event and it was planned by the greatest himself, muhammad ali. >> jim avila, leading us of tonight thank you. as those funeral preparations continue tonight, millions already pay ing respects, and while boxing may have propelled muhammad ali into the american mainstream, it was his massive personality that made him larger than life. here's abc's robin roberts. >> i am the kipg of tng of the . >> hold it.
>> reporter: he was born cassius clay in louisville, kentucky in 1942. by 18 he was the star of the u.s. olympic team. >> i'm handsome, i'm fast, i'm pretty and can't possibly be beat. >> reporter: light on his feet, he took home a gold medal, but 9 victory was bittersweet, returning home to a segregated south where he was still treated like a second class citizen, ali said he threw his gold medal into the ohio river in disgust. >> i went downtown, a cup of coffee, a hot dog. a lady said we don't serve negros. i was so mad. i said i don't eat them either. just give me a cup of coffee. >> reporter: four years later he stole the heavyweight title in one of the biggest upsets in history. >> i just turned 22 years old. i must be the greatest! >> reporter: ali loved the spotlight but privately he was going through his own transformation. at the height of the civil rights movement and under the
guidance of malcolm x, ali joined the nation of islam and rejected what he called his slave name. >> i would like for you to call me by my name now. muhammad ali. >> he gave up a lot for his politics and he was criticized and even vilified by many people. >> reporter: soon there was a new controversy, this one landing him in court. the year was 1967, and the u.s. was deep into the vietnam war when ali got his draft notice. he refused to serve, arguing the war violated his muslim beliefs. >> the real enemies of my people are right here, not in vietnam. >> reporter: ali was convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his title and banned from the sport. >> it was striking to many americans that he not only had beliefs but he stood up for them. >> reporter: it took almost three years for ali to win his appeal at the supreme court and get back into the ring, and he returned with a vengeance.
>> muhammad ali with an 8th round knockout! >> reporter: but years of punishment in the ring took its toll. >> can't talk no more. i'm all messed up. >> reporter: ali retired for good in 1981. three years later, at the age of 42, he was diagnosed with parkinson's disease. and when ali grew physically weaker over the years, he could still inspire, lighting the olympic flame in atlanta and speaking out for peace in solidarity with all muslims in the wake of september 11th. >> the united states honors muhammad ali. >> reporter: in 2005, president bush awarded ali the presidential medal of freedom. >> the man to beat me hasn't been born yet. i'm the world's greatest. i'm the greatest. >> reporter: and in so many ways, muhammad ali lived up to his word. robin roberts, abc news, new york. >> muhammad ali was so much more
than a legendary boxer. he will be remembered for standing his ground in some of the fights that shaped our nation. raised in a deeply segregated south, refusing to report for duty in the vietnam war, his protests inspiring so many. here's abc's byron pits. >> reporter: so many tonight remembering muhammad ali, not just for his gifts in the ring, but for his impact on the civil rights movement. the president and mrs. obama saying in statement this morning "ali stood up when it was hard, spoke out when others wouldn't." and fellow boxing great floyd mayweather writing, "thank you for everything you've done for black america." despite his celebrity, ali was still a colored man in embattled 1960s america. many of his contemporaries, white and black, viewed him with suspicion. famed actor, singer, and human rights activist harry belafonte -- >> i would look at him and wonder what was his game? what role was he playing? >> not a heavyweight in the world fast enough to stop me.
>> reporter: he had an audacity that, in those times, was at best unfamiliar, at worst dangerous. >> this rather aggressive attitude, mixed with so much mischief, mixed with so much metaphor, mixed with so much brashness, and at the same exuding this incredible charm. >> it sounds like in many ways that your journey with muhammad ali is like america's journey with ali, initial fascination, deep curiosity, and then great affection later. >> but i began to look at him and our struggle and our movement through very different lens. i saw him as critically important to smashing traditions. >> how so? >> most of us had somehow adopted a code of existence that always put upon us the need to show our gentler side.
always be respectful. never be contentious. don't be aggressive. be a "good negro." >> so perhaps he showed that it was okay for a black man to be bold, to be outspoken. >> the beauty of it was that it was really him. and i loved him for it, loved him for it. >> reporter: as he aged, the world would come to love him. and all who knew him well concede muhammad ali was not a perfect man, just perfect for his time. byron pitts, abc news, new york. and ali was certainly seen as the perfect champion in his hometown of louisville where he is being celebrated tonight. the memorials growing there, that city preparing for a legend's homecoming. abc's ryan smith is in louisville where he spoke to muhammad ali's brother. >> reporter: tonight, ali's hometown celebrating the man they simply called the champ. he was the greatest of all
times. >> reporter: a final salute to their son, the city's ent star and perhaps its greatest source of pride. his brother returning to their childhood home today. >> i feel like crying. >> you all were close. >> very, very close. my brother was my best friend. >> reporter: ali's boxing career, starting inside a louisville ring at 12. by 18, an olympic gold medalist. at 22, heavyweight champion of the world. today, at louisville's muhammad ali center, many remembering stories of how the hometown hero touched their lives. >> what was he like in high school? >> i remember this guy who stood up and talked like, "i don't care what you think about me." >> his brash, outspoken manner earning him the nickname louisville lip early in his
career -- >> float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. >> reporter: eventually endearing him to fans. >> reporter: but had a softer side. when this man's father was dying of cancer, ali offering unexpected comfort. this man came out of nowhere and put his hand on top of my head like he was telling me it would be okay. i'll never forget it. >> reporter: in the hearts and mind of so many in louisville, the champ will forever be their greatest of all time. the local papers echoing that theme. the front page covered with this iconic picture of an ali knockdown and the caption simply, "the greatest." what started out as a small memorial this morning at the muhammad ali center has grown by leaps and bounds, hundreds stopping by to pay their respects. muhammad ali waged a decades long battle against parkinson's disease. his wife lonnie right there by his side through all of it. as we look back at his legacy today, we found this interview, the boxer, his wife and our diane sawyer in their shared hometown back in 2007.
>> how are you? so nice to see you. >> thank you. couple of hometown kids, louisville kids went out to see the world. we did. >> reporter: the story is all here, including the beginning. it was a red bike he got for christmas. >> someone stole it and he went to tell the policeman there that someone had stolen his bike and he was going to beat them up. so smart joe martin said, "well, why don't you come learn to fight first?" and then he got him into the boxing at the colombia gym and the rest is history. >> reporter: in the museum, a photo of the day she met him. >> is this the, the famous picture? >> that's the famous picture. >> that's where you -- >> as you see, i haven't changed much, diane. >> reporter: then, 22-year-old cassius clay teased his awe struck little neighbor. >> did he remember saying to you, "i'm gonna marry you when you grow up"? >> oh, yes. but you know what, diane? i have found out that muhammad said that to a lot of little girls. it wasn't just me. >> reporter: he had just been diagnosed with parkinson's when they met.
>> and you never feel robbed? >> no, no. our life is so full, so rich. i mean we have nothing to be sorry for. >> there is such conversation going on between the two of you all the time now. >> well, yeah. we have -- i understand muhammad's signals. and it's sort of a -- some of it's a silent conversation. i, i can look at his face. i can tell what he wants or what he's thinking. i think muhammad will say, "do as much as you can because that's the way you will be remembered. god gives us special gifts. and the more god gives you, the more he expects." and there will be much more on muhammad ali on a special on "20/20" tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern. much more ahead tonight. muhammad ali's death makes its way into the presidential race. donald trump's proposal to ban muslims back in the headlines. trump's proposal to ban muslims. and flood warnings in texas, more than a dozen people killed. we will tell you if the worst has passed.
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of hard stools. dulcolax, designed for dependable relief next, muhammad ali's death next, muhammad ali's death colliding with the race for the white house. a donald trump tweet once again causing trouble tonight, given his proposed ban on muslims. trump now being called a hypocrite for championing the champ. here's abc's david wright. >> reporter: the evening the man who wants to make america great again is under fire for sending out this tweet about the greatest. calling muhammad ali a truly great champion and a wonderful guy. he will be missed by all. the trouble is, the feeling wasn't mutual, not after the mass shooting in san bernardino when trump made this controversial policy proposal. >> a total and complete shutdown of muslims entering the united states until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
>> reporter: ali, true to form, issued a scathing critique. speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, i believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religious of islam. >> don't tell us how much you love muhammad ali and yet you're going tore prejudiced against muslims in this country. >> on a day that we are mourning muhammad ali, it's worth remembering that we live in a country where people can break down barriers, where they can worship their own god. >> both democrats pouncing on that issue today. both of them locked in a tough battle against each other here in california. barn storming the state ahead of tuesday's primary. cecilia? >> david wright, thank you. tomorrow on "this week," george stephanopoulos goes one-on-one with hillary clinton. we have much more to get to tonight. a terror warning for americans abroad. u.s. citizens in one country told of imminent terrorist
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back guarantee. that's always discreet. >> and back to our top story tonight, as great as muhammad ali was in the ring, he was also one of the great talkers of our time. and he met his match in abc's howard cosell. when so many others refused to call ali by his muslim name, co sell stood by the champ. more on this unlikely friendship. >> just have a little dance like you're boxing. in just one second. i have to time it. >> reporter: they were boxing's odd couple, muhammad ali, the brash young black boxing champ from louisville, and abc's howard cosell, a jewish sports reporter from brooklyn. >> the person making all the noise is howard cosell. >> reporter: somehow it worked. >> you're being extremely truculent. >> whatever truculent means, if that's good i'm there. >> reporter: for over 30 years, they played their roles to perfection. cosell, the pompous commentator. ali, with just the needle to puncture that pomposity.
>> you are always coming up with a lot of big words. >> reporter: but there was also genuine respect and affection. especially when ali felt slighted by others. when ali adopted a muslim name, cosell was one of the first reporters to call him by it. >> ohio how do you want to be called? >> humid ali. >> reporter: cosell stood by him. >> all the years -- >> on ali's 50th birthday, just a few years before co sell died. >> you're a very special man. >> reporter: he was there to honor his friend. >> your name is muhammad ali. >> thanks to ron clayborn and thank you so much for joining
us tonight. we want to leave you with this image and these word next, a lasting legacy. the death of muhammad ali impacts people all over the bay area, inside the ring and outside it. our own spencer christian is on set to talk about the passing of his friend and the man behind the legend. a first for san jose as the shark tank hosts the stanley cup final. abc7 news at 6:00 starts now. >> just so many moments inside and outside of the ring i have pointed to in the past to encourage me and to strengthen me on my professional juniory. >> inspired by greatness, bay area champ is month those remembering muhammad ali. man whose personality and social conscience transcended the sport he tom nateed. his family said the die of --
died of septic shock. a public memorial will be held on friday in louisville, kentucky. former president bill clinton will perform the eulogy. here in the bay area people are mourning his pasting. cornell bernard has more from the newsroom. >> my father loved muhammad ali -- >> so did bay area booking champ andre ward. he never met ali but the greatest was a role model in the ring and out. >> just the way he fought for what he believed in. in the midst of the backlash, in the midst of possibly losing a career at that time. >> the price ali paid for opposing the vietnam war. yet the champ prevailed. walk keep lopez -- joaquin lopez is training for his next fight. this 23-year-old is bolt turn pro and thanks the greatest for paving the way.