Muhammad Ali celebrated his 70th birthday Saturday night in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky at the first of five planned events for the former heavyweight champ.
Ali is still the greatest- at least that's how Lennox Lewis feels, according to The Associated Press. Lewis, who is also a former heavyweight champion, said that Ali was his boyhood idol and he was honored to be at the celebration.
"I feel so proud and honored that we're able to show our feelings and show our support for him," Lewis said.
According to Lewis, Ali ranks as the greatest of heavyweights and his fights were inspiring.
"I used to get mad if I didn't see the Ali shuffle," Lewis said. "So I was always watching him, expecting some type of antic."
Ali, who is battling Parkinson's disease, celebrated his birthday to chants of "Ali! Ali!" and the "Happy Birthday" song by hundreds of guests. Ali overlooked the crowd from a second-floor balcony and waived to them while using a rail to balance himself.
The guest list had over 300 names on it, and they paid a hefty $1,000 per person. The list included Ali's first trainer Angelo Dundee, who told The Louisville Journal Courier that the two remain close friends and still speak monthly.
"We're like family," Dundee said. "We've always been family and we're always going to be family. He'll say, 'Angee, I want to come and train.' That's what I miss the most. Being in the gym."
Also in attendance were two American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran. Ali had lobbied for their release.
Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were two of three men that were detained by Iranian authorities in 2009 and held captive for more than a year. Ali's wife, Lonnie Ali, said her husband was glad to have played a part in 2011, when he joined Muslim and other religious leaders in calling for the release of the captives.
Money from ticket sales will go to the Ali Center, a cultural and educational complex, designed in his legacy of social activism, according to AP. Rock star John Mellencamp headlined the entertainment.
John Calipari, University of Kentucky's men's basketball coach, said he admired Ali for his confidence and courage.
"The reason I loved him is because of his confidence," Calipari said. "He would talk and then back it up. He had great courage and who had more fun than him?"
Ali is a three-time heavyweight world champion. He was first stripped of his title in 1967 for refusing to be drafted into the U.S. military for the Vietnam War. He later lost an attempt to regain his title, when Joe Frazier beat him in the "Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden in 1971.
He would eventually beat George Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle" to regain the title in 1974. He won the title again in 1978, when he beat Leon Spinks. He retired in 1981 and to pursue social causes and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his humanitarian efforts.