Legendary boxer Ali given Liberty Medal

Legendary boxer Ali given Liberty Medal

PHILADELPHIA - The Associated Press
Legendary boxer Ali given Liberty Medal

Muhammad Ali was awarded the Liberty Medal for his support of humanitarian causes and civil rights. AP photo

Muhammad Ali was known as “The Greatest” inside the ring. But some say the moniker has been even more fitting since he hung up the gloves.

Ali received the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Sept. 13, honoring his longtime support of humanitarian causes, civil rights and religious freedom.

Joe Louis Barrow II, the son of boxer Joe Louis, says Ali’s character outside the ring speaks to the “hope of the least and lost among us.”

The 70-year-old Ali, hobbled by a 30-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, did not speak. But he stood with assistance to receive the medal from his daughter Laila Ali.

Previous recipients include musician and human rights activist Bono, former South African President Nelson Mandela and former President Jimmy Carter. Six of the winners went on to win the Nobel Prize.
“Ali embodies the spirit of the Liberty Medal by embracing the ideals of the Constitution - freedom, self-governance, equality and empowerment - and helping to spread them across the globe,” former President Bill Clinton, the center’s chairman, said in a statement.

Since hanging up his gloves in 1981, Ali has traveled extensively on international charitable missions and devoted his time to philanthropy and social causes.

His wife Lonnie spoke on the boxing legend’s behalf at the ceremony. A 30-year battle with Parkinson’s disease has devastated the once-chiseled physique that made Ali an Olympic champion and three-time heavyweight title holder.

Ali was born Cassius Clay but changed his name after converting to Islam in the 1960s. He refused to serve in the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs and was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling later cleared him of a draft-evasion conviction; he regained the boxing title in 1974 and again 1978.

Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the nation’s highest civilian honor - in 2005.