Will Smith to Be Pallbearer at Muhammad Ali’s Funeral

Muhammad Ali gestures behind the head of actor Will Smith at the Miami Art Basel Taschen book premiere of Ali's new book, 'GOAT - Greatest Of All Time' at the Miami Convention Center December 6, 2003 in Miami, Florida.
Muhammad Ali gestures behind the head of actor Will Smith at the Miami Art Basel Taschen book premiere of Ali's new book, 'GOAT - Greatest Of All Time' at the Miami Convention Center Dec. 6, 2003, in Miami. Gregorio Binuya/Getty Images

Will Smith will be a pallbearer at Muhammad Ali’s funeral in the boxing great’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, on Friday, June 10, according to ESPN.

The 47-year-old actor famously played the athlete in the 2001 biopic Ali, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for the role. The two became close during filming, and Ali praised Smith’s portrayal. “He is a perfect actor,” Ali told ABC News at the time of the movie’s release. “I even thought he was me.”

Muhammad Ali jokes with Will Smith who portrays him in film
Muhammad Ali jokes with Will Smith who portrays him in the film 'Ali,' at the movie's premiere in Hollywood on Dec. 12, 2001. LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP/Getty Images

Smith trained for almost two years to play the part — he learned how to fight, rehearsed Ali’s accent and tried to capture the boxer’s soul, ABC News reported. After Ali’s death on Friday, June 3, the Concussion actor paid tribute to his late friend on social media on Saturday, June 4. “You shook up the World! My Mentor & My Friend. You changed my Life. Rest in Peace,” he captioned a collage of photos of the pair together. 

Britain’s former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and Ali’s former sparring partner Jimmy Ellis’ brother, Jerry Ellis, will also join Smith in carrying the coffin. The other pallbearers will be family and close friends.

The memorial service, which begins at 2 p.m. ET, is open to the public and will be live-streamed. Several world leaders and celebrities are planning to attend the funeral. 

Muhammad Ali talks with actor Will Smith before the start of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 1, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Muhammad Ali talks with actor Will Smith before the start of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 1, 2010, in Las Vegas. Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The three-time heavyweight world champion died at age 74 from septic shock on June 3. He spent his final moments surrounded by family in a Phoenix, Arizona, hospital. Prior to his passing, he was hospitalized for a respiratory issue, family spokesperson Bob Gunnell confirmed to ESPN on Thursday, June 2.

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