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To Honor Muhammad Ali, Phoenix Renames Street And Declares Holiday

By Lauren Gilger, Steve Goldstein, Tom Maxedon
Published: Monday, June 3, 2019 - 11:54am
Updated: Monday, June 3, 2019 - 3:06pm
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Dignity Health
Lonnie Ali speaks about her late husband, Muhammad Ali, on June 3, 2019, during a special tribute of the Muhammad Ali Way at the Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute

A portion of Merrell Street in Phoenix has a new name. And it bears the moniker of one of the greatest boxers in history.

June 3 marks the third anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s death. The boxing legend passed away at the age of 74 after a long fight against Parkinson’s disease.

His humor and braggadocio were as legendary as his boxing career. 

Archival footage of a then 22-year-old Cassius Clay, who shocked the world when he defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavyweight title, is evidence of such. 

Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1967 after joining the Nation of Islam and being convicted for his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War — a conviction that was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971.

Now, three years after his death, Muhammad Ali Way replaces Merrell Street in Central Phoenix between Central and Third avenues, near the Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute also named after the charismatic three-time heavyweight champion.

The city of Phoenix is also declaring June 3 as “Muhammad Ali Day” to highlight his life and contributions to the city.

Ali became a giant of charity in Phoenix in the 1994 Fight Night — a charity event that morphed into the Celebrity Fight Night. Ali was one of the featured guests there for over 20 years.

Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali, Monday spoke at the dedication ceremony.

“People who enter that street, I hope they understand and feel that presence. I’ve lived here for 12 years. Muhammad was here for 10. And Phoenix became his home. We loved it here.”

Ali was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1981.

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