Retired boxing great Muhammad Ali will visit Philadelphia to receive the Liberty Medal, an award recognizing his long-time role as a fighter outside the ring for humanitarian causes, civil rights and religious freedom.
The honour will be presented on Thursday during a ceremony at the National Constitution Centre by the champ’s daughter, who is also a boxer, and two U.S. Olympic athletes. It comes with a $100,000 (77,500) cash prize.
“Ali embodies the spirit of the Liberty Medal by embracing the ideals of the Constitution freedom, self-governance, equality and empowerment and helping to spread them across the globe,” former President Bill Clinton, the centre’s chairman, said in a statement.
Since hanging up his gloves in 1981, Ali has travelled extensively on international charitable missions and devoted his time to philanthropy and social causes.
Ali’s daughter Laila will join Claressa Shields and Susan Francia in bestowing the Liberty Medal. Last month, the 17-year-old Shields became the first U.S. woman to win Olympic gold in boxing. Francia is a two-time rowing gold medallist from nearby Abington, Pa.
Ali was born Cassius Clay but changed his name after converting to Islam in the 1960s. He refused to serve in the Vietnam War because of his religious beliefs and was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling later cleared him of a draft-evasion conviction; he regained the boxing title in 1974 and again 1978.
Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom the nation’s highest civilian honour in 2005. He has also established the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Centre in Phoenix and a namesake educational and cultural institute in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
The National Constitution Centre, which opened in 2003, is dedicated to increasing public understanding of the Constitution and the ideas and values it represents. It awards the Liberty Medal annually to an individual who displays courage and conviction while striving to secure freedom for people around the world.
Previous recipients include rock singer and human rights activist Bono, former South African President Nelson Mandela and former President Jimmy Carter. Six winners later received the Nobel Peace Prize.