“Tonight as we celebrate so many greats, we must acknowledge the loss of the man known all around the world as The Greatest, Muhammad Ali,” he said. “The Champ was the towering figure of our times, in the boxing ring and beyond. He was a freedom fighter who used his fists and his wits, his force and his faith to make our world a better and more just place.”
“As a fighter and a man, Ali had it all,” he continued. “As he himself would put it, he could float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. He was the toughest, the funniest, and the prettiest too. But beyond his amazing grace and beauty, The Champ was also the bravest, both in how he chose to fight and in how he chose peace. And that was true right until the end as The Champ bravely fought on in the final battle of his life.”
With the help of Andra Day, Legend also performed “The Greatest Love of All,” a song he said was first written for 1977 Ali biopic The Greatest.
“This anthem has gone on to become a modern standard and tonight I am honored to sing it with the extraordinary Andra Day in honor of this giant who forever set the standard for what it means to be a true hero,” Legend said. “Thank you, Muhammad Ali, for showing us all the greatest love of all.”
See their performance below.
Reporting by Scott Huver