The world is mourning boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who has passed away on June 3 at the age of 74. A charismatic fighter known for his love of the spotlight, his verbally aggressive fights, his support for the little man and his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war — his legacy reaches so much further than just the boxing ring.
Will Smith To Ali: 'You Shook Up The World'
Will Smith portrayed the boxer in the only fictional film about his life in the 2001 movie Ali, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He took to Facebook to post a short and moving tribute to the late star, sharing two pictures of his encounters with Ali with the following caption:
You shook up the World!
My Mentor & My Friend.
You changed my Life.
Rest in Peace.
When Smith presented the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award to golfer legend Jack Nicklaus last year, he also took the opportunity to celebrate the greatness of the boxing champion who set his own rules:
"But when we think about the legacy of Muhammad Ali, what he did in the ring is not what we think about. For nearly two years, I worked to transform myself into the man who changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and shook up the world. That's really what makes my job so beautiful as an actor. For four or five months at a time, I get to wear people's lives, so I got to wear Muhammad Ali's greatness. I got to study and feel and embody the soul of the man. From the foundations of Islam and the strength of his Muslim faith and his life to the beautiful wake that he always leaves in his magnificent path."
Last year, Smith presented the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award to Jack Nicklaus at Sports Illustrated's annual Sportsperson of the Year dinner, where he praised The Champ.
Liam Neeson: 'He Was My Hero'
Irish actor Liam Neeson has also praised Ali following the news of his passing, talking to Irish Central about how much he was inspired by the champion's unexpected first wins.
"He was my hero from when I was a young amateur boxer, and schoolboy, back in Ireland. I'll never forget hearing that he had beaten the unbeatable Sonny Liston. It was 1964 and it was a cold, wet February in Ballymena. As I walked to school that morning, my feet didn't seem to touch the ground: My mind was an excited blur, because somehow the world had changed with that victory."
As he dabbed in boxing himself, he felt extremely lucky to have met the boxer, even when Ali was suffering from Parkinson's — a disease he battled for more than 30 years.
"I got to meet him before he had his last fight in 1981. Not knowing what to say and with my knees shaking, I said 'Muhammad, I love you.' He gave me a hug and then signed an autograph for my father. I met him again in 2011. He was unable to speak with his advanced Parkinson's. I put my hand over his and whispered 'I love you.' His wife said to me, 'He knows who you are.'"
Michael B. Jordan: 'He Inspired Tons Of People'
Michael B. Jordan, who starred in Creed alongside Sylvester Stallone as Adonis Johnson, boxer and son of boxing star Apollo Creed, shared his admiration of Ali:
"To have his life pass away is tragic, but you've got to celebrate his life. He lived a really, really long life; [it was] purposeful, he inspired tons of people,"I know he inspired me."
'I Wouldn't Even Mind If Folks Forgot How Pretty I Was'
Celebrities around the world took to Twitter to share heartfelt messages celebrating the late icon, showing that he inspired more people than just boxing fans to fight for their dreams. He even appeared in a DC comic where he defeated Superman!
Rest in peace, Ali.