Arts & Entertainment

Yes, Muhammad Ali Day in Los Angeles is already a holiday

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali attends the Otto-Hahn-Peace-Medal Award Presentation  on December 17, 2005 in Berlin, Germany.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali attends the Otto-Hahn-Peace-Medal Award Presentation on December 17, 2005 in Berlin, Germany.
Carsten Koall/Getty Images

The news of Muhammad Ali's death on Friday night has prompted several Angelenos to urge the city to celebrate the sports legend with a day in his honor. But Los Angeles already has a Muhammad Ali Day. In fact, it has more than one.

In January of 2002, Ali visited the chambers of the Los Angeles City Council for the proclamation of Muhammad Ali Day, to be celebrated on the boxing champ's birthday, January 17.

"I was thrilled to be able to be in the same room as him," says Joshua Kamensky, who at the time was the communications director for then-councilman Eric Garcetti.

Kamensky remembers Ali's visit and the electric mood in council chambers that day.

"[Ali] walked into the room and all eyes were on him from the moment he set foot. And, of course, every elected official in the room went around and had a couple of minutes of memories or simple praise for the champ. And when everyone had said their piece, Muhammad Al got up to speak. He looked around and he said, 'I only get one day?' And that was all he said."

After Ali's deadpan quip, Mayor James Hahn reportedly took the stage and said, "I can give you the whole century. I can give you the whole millennium — the Ali Millennium," to a round of applause.

Later that week, as part of the celebration around Ali's 60th birthday, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But in a break with tradition, his star was embedded on a wall of the Dolby Theatre (then the Kodak Theatre) instead of on the sidewalk because, as Ali said, he didn't want his name to be trampled by people who "don't have no respect for me."

Mayor Hahn's 2002 declaration actually wasn't the first time L.A. had named a day in Ali's honor.

In either 1975 or 1979 or 1982 or 1985, Mayor Tom Bradley declared Muhammad Ali Day. Depending on what source you believe, that day would either be February 3 or September 6 or sometime in May. So you have your pick of dates when you can celebrate the legacy of the heavyweight champ and peace activist.

Whatever date you choose to honor him, Ali was a force of nature, both inside and outside the ring.

Recalling that day in 2002 when Ali visited the L.A. City Council, Kamensky says, "I've seen two people in that room who generated that kind of intensity and attention. One was Mikhail Gorbachev and the other was Muhammad Ali — and Ali's was greater."