To Laila Ali, the People’s Champion was simply “Dad.”
The boxing legend’s daughter paid tribute her father who passed away earlier this month at the 2016 BET Awards on Sunday with an emotional speech.
Ali, 38, choked up as she spoke, recalling the “loving, gentle and principled man” who was father to her and her eight siblings.
“My father always said, ‘The man who views the world at 50 the same way as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life,’ ” she said. “As my dad grew older, he evolved in his mind, his heart and his spirit, but one thing that never changed was his love and gratitude for all people.”
“These past few weeks, my father’s generosity and love has been matched by a worldwide outpouring of love and reverence for him and our entire family,” Ali continued. “We’re all honored and grateful for the love, kindness and appreciation that’s been shown to him in return. My father also once said, ‘If people love each other as much as they love me, it would be a better world.’ If he was here today he would humbly ask you to pray, not just for our family, but for all of mankind.”
Ali, a retired boxer herself, was introduced by Jamie Foxx, who starred in the 2001 biopic Ali as the boxer’s cornerman, Bundini Brown. Foxx remembered meeting the sports icon on the film’s set.
“To have him give me acknowledgement, a person who’s not only the greatest, not only a legend, but stood up at a time when no one was standing up,” Foxx said. “It’s definitely more than just boxing, more than just entertainment, but a person who has shaped all of our lives.”
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Ali told PEOPLE she felt good after her tribute.
“BET has shown my father lots of love obviously over the years. And I also have a relationship with them so of course when I heard they were doing a tribute to my dad and they asked me to be here, I wasn’t going to say no,” she said.
“It’s nice to see all the love everyone has for my father,” she added.
Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3 at age 74 after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
• Reporting by RAHA LEWIS