Bermondsey boxer David Haye has launched a petition to grant one of the world’s greatest sportsman Muhammad Ali an honorary knighthood as the former three-time heavyweight world champion prepares to come to Greenwich next week.
Ali, 74, is scheduled to attend the opening of I Am The Greatest , an exhibition showcasing his life and career at The O2 which runs from next Friday (March 4) until the end of the summer.
Haye, who is back in the ring at the arena for his second Haye Day later this year, said: “Like millions of others around the world Muhammad Ali is a hero of mine and the inspiration that made me want to become a boxer.
“This may well be The Greatest’s last visit to the UK and he deserves to be recognised formally, not only for his sporting achievements that made him one of the most recognisable people on the planet, but also his amazing humanitarian work over many years that have had an impact across the world.
“Muhammad loves the UK, he first came to prominence here when he fought Henry Cooper nearly 53 years ago and he’s entertained and enthralled us ever since.
“The Greatest has received many major awards and high honours worldwide and I believe it’s time the UK honoured him too.”
Ali has Parkinson's disease and it is still not clear if he'll be able to attend the opening ceremony.
“I know he wants to come and I hope that he does,” his friend and exhibition co-curator Davis Miller told The Guardian in late January . “I saw him last September and he looked surprisingly good. He was playful, playing with kids, doing magic tricks and was very alert and joking.”
Honorary knighthoods recognise non-UK nationals who are special to the UK. Previous recipients include U2 frontman Bono, the late Terry Wogan and Hollywood director Steven Spielberg. Muhammad Ali would become the first sportsman to receive the award.
About the exhibition
"I Am The Greatest: Muhammad Ali at The O2 will explore Muhammad Ali’s incredible rise from humble beginnings in Kentucky where he was known as The Louisville Lip, to becoming the three times heavyweight champion of the World and known as The Greatest.
"For the first time outside of USA, people will discover the true story behind one of the most recognisable sports figures of the 20th Century, experiencing a taste of the ‘Muhammad Ali Center’, the museum in Louisville dedicated to the six core principles of Ali’s life and be inspired by a story that transcends boxing glory with its humanity and diversity."
The exhibition opens Friday, March 4, and will run through to August 31, 2016.