While tributes continue to flood in on social media for Muhammad Ali, it has emerged that one of his biggest fans was none other than Prince. The late music icon regarded Ali as a personal hero and the pair forged a strong friendship after the world heavyweight boxing champion requested Prince's help in staging a charity concert in 1997.
The World Healing Honours benefit gig was dedicated to supporting charities highlighting awareness of racism and prejudice around the world. The brainchild of Ali he said: "I wish people would love everybody else the way that they love me. I hope I can encourage people to show the same love and respect for each other. If so, it would be a better world."
Speaking at a press conference at the time, the Purple Rain singer was awe-struck as he came face-to-face with his childhood hero. According to Mail Online, he explained that he would have done anything Ali had asked him.
"My friend Londell McMillan called me a couple of days ago and asked me. He said, 'Muhammad wants you to' - and I said 'Yes'. I didn't even let him finish. He could have said, 'Mow the lawn', and I would have been down with it," Prince said.
"Muhammad's my hero. He has been since I was a child. As you can see, he's such an inspiration to many people," he added.
The pair continued to share a close bond for many years after their first meeting. Following the unexpected death of Prince in April, Ali was one of the first people to pay tribute to the music legend. Posting a photo of the two of them together he wrote: "We've lost a true original. @Prince was someone who cared for others & used his genius to help many."
Sadly it wasn't long before the world would be remembering Ali too, after he lost his battle with Parkinson's disease. The boxing champion passed away on Friday, 3 June, at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona where he had been admitted a day earlier due to a respiratory condition. He was 74.
Describing him as "the love of my life," his daughter Hana Ali shared a photo from Prince's meeting with her father. "Prince doing his version of Daddy's levitating magic trick act!" she wrote.
The three-time world champion was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1984, just three years after quitting boxing. Ali was last in hospital in December 2014, and then again in January 2015, for a severe urinary tract infection that was initially diagnosed as pneumonia, ESPN reported.
His last official public appearance was in October, when he appeared at the Sports Illustrated Tribute to Muhammad Ali at The Muhammad Ali Centre in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
The worlds of sport and entertainment, paid tribute to the legend, as did political figures and fans. Reacting to news of his passing, President Obama, who had previously described Ali as his greatest inspiration, said Ali "shook up the world and the world is better for it".
Madonna, who recently mourned the death of her friend Prince, poignantly expressed her sadness as she shared the picture of Prince and Ali together, as the world mourns the loss of two cultural heroes in a matter of months.