February 20, 2012 06:43:34 GMT
Doubling as a fundraiser, the birthday gala sees P. Diddy, Samuel L. Jackson and David Beckham paying homage to the boxing great with performances from Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg and many others.
Around a month after turning 70, Muhammad Ali has his birthday celebrated at Keep Memory Alive's Annual Power of Love Gala. Taking place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, February 18, the bash that doubled as fundraiser saw the boxing icon receiving birthday tribute from President Barack Obama as well as being feted by a slew of A-listers.
Obama was not able to personally attend the dinner gala, but he did send a video message for Ali. Having wished the former heavyweight champion a happy birthday, he said, "As a fighter, you were something spectacular. You shocked the world, and you inspired it, too. And even after all the titles and legendary bouts, you're still doing it."
The President of the United States wasn't the only one sharing his personal remarks of Ali. Samuel L. Jackson, Terrence Howard, David Beckham and P. Diddy all spoke about the former champion. Jackson, in particular, gushed, "He's one of the groundbreaking figures of the generation that helped make the world a more open place when it comes to who we can love, where we can go and what we can do."
Tennis star Andre Agassi also shared his thought about the boxer. "What he did with his platform was unparalleled and the impact he's had as a result, we still feel to this day, which is why we're all out here tonight," he said. "We're grateful to what he's done. He's been a leader - we're also challenged and charged with a duty of figuring out a way to do more."
Making merry the gala, which benefits the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Muhammad Ali Center, with his performance was Stevie Wonder. The 61-year-old serenaded Ali with his version of "Happy Birthday". Also entertaining Ali and the crowd of about 2,000 were Snoop Dogg, Lenny Kravitz, Cee-Lo Green and Kelly Rowland.
Cindy Crawford, Larry King, Quincy Jones, Ken Jeong, LL Cool J, Common, Anthony Hopkins, John Legend, Terrence Howard and Sammy Hagar were among the other celebrities in attendance, while Manny Pacquiao, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Evander Holyfield were some of the boxing stars spotted.
During the gala, a set of gloves Ali used to defeat Floyd Patterson in 1965 in Las Vegas was auctioned off. Organizers said earlier they hoped the gloves would bring in $500,000, but they eventually collected more than twice the estimation. Lorenzo Fertitta, a casino owner and owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, spent $1.1 million to win them.
Ali's birthday celebration, dubbed "Ali 70th From Las Vegas," will be aired nationally on ESPN2 on Saturday, February 25, starting at 10 P.M. local time in all markets. At 4 P.M. PT the same day, ABC will air the celebration in Las Vegas.