Even after death, Muhammad Ali remains a larger-than-life figure.

That was clear Saturday, March 18, at the fundraising gala that Ali was associated with for 20 years, Celebrity Fight Night. This year’s event, the 23rd, took place at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix.

Proceeds from the event go to charities including the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute.

Ali, the former world heavyweight boxing champion whose fame transcended sport, died June 3, 2016, in Scottsdale.

Harrison Ford honored

Actor Harrison Ford was the honored guest for 2017, but most in attendance paid tribute to Ali.

The room was decorated with giant photos of Ali in various stages of his life. The scene was topped by his name in lights over a replica of a boxing ring at center stage.

“We always like coming here,” Ali’s daughter Laila Ali said before the event. “There is so much love for the Ali family here.”

Muhammad Ali: ‘A kind man with a big heart and a great person’


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On the red carpet before the event, Arizona Cardinals’ receiver Larry Fitzgerald said it was a bittersweet occasion without Ali being present.

“It is sad,” Fitzgerald said. “There is a big void in the world with him not being here. But I think everybody here understands it is his legacy that we are honoring tonight.”

Boxer Ernie Shavers fought Ali in 1977 and joked that Ali called him “Acorn” because of his shaved head.

“He said after the fight that I was a hard nut to crack,” Shavers said. “But we were friends long before we fought. I miss Ali. He was a kind man with a big heart and a great person.”

Ali’s grandson, Jacob Wertheimer, summed up the spirit of the evening when he spoke alongside his grandmother.

“It doesn’t make sense for me to think that my grandfather is gone,” Wertheimer said. “When I look around this room and see how much work and love and dedication goes into this night, I don’t think he’s gone.”

Sharon Stone, more stars in show

Actress Sharon Stone and talk-show host Larry King teamed up for a special  presentation in Ali’s honor. Country-music star Reba McEntire hosted the event for the 12th consecutive year.

Red-carpet action

Celebrities on the red carpet included local and national stars:

  • Reba McEntire and Melissa Peterman share memories at Celebrity Fight Night

    Reba McEntire and Melissa Peterman share memories at Celebrity Fight Night

  • Larry Fitzgerald at Celebrity Fight Night 2017

    Larry Fitzgerald at Celebrity Fight Night 2017

  • Michael Phelps at Celebrity Fight Night

    Michael Phelps at Celebrity Fight Night

McEntire shared memories of Ali;

Olympic champion and Arizona resident Amy Van Dyken;

Olympian Michael Phelps and wife Nicole;

Fitzgerald and music legend Sam Moore;

Michael Carbajal, five-time world boxing champion, and Moore.

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