Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali met on Friday with reporters in Berlin, where he is to receive a prestigious German peace prize for his work with in the U.S. civil rights movement and for the United Nations. Ali, 63, is being awarded the Otto Hahn peace medal on Saturday for his "lifelong engagement in the American civil rights movement and the global cultural emancipation of blacks, as well as his work as a U.N. Goodwill ambassador," the organization said.
Ali, who has been dealing with the degenerative effects of Parkinson's disease, was helped on stage and sat next to his wife, Lonnie Ali, who said he was honored to be singled out as the first sportsman to receive the award. "Muhammad, from the very beginning when he started boxing, he never let it define him as a person," she said. "Muhammad has used boxing as a vehicle to sort of promote his values and his ideals ... and just simply being who he is has led him to be here today."
Ali did not speak at the news conference himself, but raised his hands in front of him in boxing pose to mug for the cameras. The award is presented every two years, and other recipients include former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. It is named for the 1944 Nobel Prize winner Hahn, a German chemist and nuclear physicist who fled the Nazis in 1938. In addition to the award ceremony on Saturday, Ali is also to attend a boxing bout featuring his undefeated daughter Laila Ali in Berlin. Lonnie Ali said her husband initially had serious misgivings when his daughter first said she wanted to follow his career path. "He knew the dangers of the ring and the last thing he wanted was for his baby to be hurt," she said. Now "he's very proud of her and what she has accomplished", reports the AP. N.U.
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