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Footsteps of Greatness

Muhammad Ali Louisville Landmarks

A global icon was lost with the death of Muhammad Ali at age 74 on June 3, 2016. And, while the world grieved his passing, Louisville lost one of its most beloved sons. Ali, while loved and revered throughout the world, always considered Louisville to be his home. A week-long tribute and memorial in Louisville saw residents line miles of a funeral procession through city streets while showing throngs of international visitors the city’s signature hospitality.

Ali, originally known as Cassius Clay, was born in Louisville on January 17, 1942. It was here he honed his ability as a boxer, and it was here he returned to after winning Gold in the 1960 Rome Olympics. He returned often after capturing the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World, and since his retirement from boxing, he has been involved with the vision and direction of the Muhammad Ali Center. And it is here, in Louisville, that “The Greatest” has his final resting place.

People are still coming to Louisville from around the globe to pay their respects and celebrate the legacy of “The Greatest.” Having lived most of his young life in Louisville, the city is full of “landmarks” that are the backdrops of the events and experiences that molded Ali into the man who was both loved and respected as a legendary sports figure as well as a man of true principals. Many have planned a trip around Ali Week or the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards.

Starting this June, you can fly into the newly named Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.  A self-guided tour brochure can help you trace some of Ali’s “Footsteps of Greatness” around the town he always called home. Print one online or stop by the Muhammad Ali exhibit at the Louisville Visitor Center for more information.

Muhammad Ali Center

A vison of the Ali family, the six-story multicultural center and award-winning museum celebrates the life and legacy of the world-class boxer and global humanitarian.

Ali Childhood Home

Ali lived in the house during his childhood in the 1940s through the early 1960s. A bronze marker is located in front of the pink house noting its historical relevance (outside photo opportunities available -- no inside admittance).

Columbia Gym

Ali first learned to box at the Columbia Gym, located in the basement of the Columbia Auditorium, which is now the Spalding University center. The gym, where Ali first practiced his cutting jabs and fast footwork, is still used by Spalding athletes today.

Cave Hill Cemetery

The scenic 296-acre Victorian era National Cemetery and arboretum is the final resting place of Louisville's native son. Visitors can follow a painted green line from the cemetery entrance to Ali's grave.

Other Ali-related Louisville Landmarks:

  • Central High School – Ali graduated from the West Louisville high school in 1960. After winning the gold in Rome, a celebration was held at the high school, which is still in operation today.
  • Freedom Hall – Ali made his professional boxing debut at the multipurpose arena located on the grounds of the Kentucky Exposition Center. It’s still used today and was the site of a special Muslim service, a Jenazzah, held the day before his burial and attended by 10,000 people.
  • Metro United Way – Ali’s first televised boxing match was in what is now the Metro United Way building in downtown Louisville.
  • Second Street Bridge – Legend has it that this is where Ali stood and is thought to have thrown his Olympic Gold Medal into the Ohio River after he and a friend were denied service at a local restaurant.
  • Muhammad Ali Boulevard – In 1978, Walnut Street in Louisville was renamed to honor “The Greatest.” The street runs nearly five miles through downtown to West Louisville. 
  • Smoketown Unity Monument – Created by local sculptor Ed Hamilton and the late artist Zephra May Miller, it honors the spirit of the neighborhood and its historic link to boxing and the start of Ali’s career with local trainer Fred Stoner. The 12-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture features two boxing gloves overlapping to form a heart in the middle and has stood at the corner of Hancock & Lampton streets since 1991.