Spotlight On Celebrity Fight Night In Phoenix, Arizona
Photos by Glenda S. Paradee
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Muhammad Ali's Celebrity Fight Night XXIII Star-Studded Night Honored
Harrison Ford And Stefano Ricci And Celebrated The Life And Legacy
Of Muhammad Ali.
Performances By Reba Mcentire, Brooks & Dunn, Colbie Caillat,
Dennis Quaid, The Shadowboxers and more.
On Saturday, March 18, 2017, stars and athletes from around the
country, gathered at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in
Phoenix, Arizona to celebrate the 23rd Anniversary of Celebrity Fight
Night and to honor the life of the great Muhammad Ali. GRAMMY
Award winning superstar of country music Reba McEntire returned
for her twelfth year as emcee. Actor and philanthropist Harrison Ford
and Italian fashion designer Stefano Ricci were honored with the 2017 Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night Awards.
The black tie event featured a cocktail reception, silent auction, elegant dinner and exciting live auction including one-of-a-kind luxury items. The live auction featured a trip to the brink of space in an aircraft over Moscow, an NBA All-Star Experience including dinner with Larry Fitzgerald, Charles Barkley and Jerry Colangelo, a red carpet world premiere experience at Harrison Ford's next film Blade Runner 2049, a getaway at the Caribbean estate Villa Anacaona, a golf weekend with Alice Cooper in Hawaii, whitewater rafting with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in Chile and more. The two highest selling live auction items of the night were a dinner with Reba McEntire at her private residence in Nashville and dinner with Sharon Stone and friends John Travolta and Kelly Preston.
The evening also reflected on and celebrated the life of Muhammad Ali. Celebrity Fight Night Founder and Chairman, Jimmy Walker, presented a surprise gift presentation to Lonnie Ali, who was joined on stage by her grandson, Jacob Wertheimer, who spoke eloquently about his grandfathers legacy and carrying on his work in the fight against Parkinson's Disease. Reba McEntire read a heartfelt letter from Ali's dear friend Billy Crystal, who was disappointed he was unable to make the event this year. Finally, longtime friend and supporter of Celebrity Fight Night, Bob Parsons, announced the establishment of the Lonnie Ali Legacy Care Program. The program was established with a joint effort from Celebrity Fight Night and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center to provide the same kind of palliative care that Muhammad Ali received along with a development of a new tele-medicine program for patients and their care givers.
GRAMMY Award winning songwriter and producer David Foster, returned for his 18th consecutive year as the evening's Musical Director. The evening began with the National Anthem performed by Amelia DeMilo, followed by a classical rendition of "Kashmir" from pianist William Joseph and violinist Caroline Campbell. Performances continued throughout the night, including Dennis Quaid and his band The Sharks, and The Shadowboxers. The evening concluded with a concert from music sensations, including Brooks and Dunn, singing "Boot Scootin Boogie," "Reba McEntire singing her hits "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," and "Fancy," Brian McKnight serenaded the audience with Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," and his own classic "Back At One," Colbie Caillat performed "I Never Told You" and "Brighter Than The Sun," Sam Moore kept the evening rocking with "Take Me To the River" and "Soul Man" and then lead the crowd in "God Bless America." Mike Love ended the night with a bang, with his classic Beach Boys hits "California Girls," "Surfin USA," "Help Me Rhonda," "Kokomo," "Good Vibrations," and the late Chuck Berry classic "Rock and Roll Music."
Additional celebrity guests included Laila Ali, Lonnie Ali, Billy Blanks, Michael Carbajal, Kevin Cordes, John Paul DeJoria, Bo Derek, Larry Fitzgerald, Kirk Gibson, Cale Hulse, Robert Kennedy Jr., Larry King, Nancy Lieberman, Gena Lee Nolin, Lute Olson, Bob & Renee Parsons, Melissa Peterman, Chelsea Pezzola, Michael Phelps, Chris Rich, The Shadowboxers, Earnie Shavers, Giles Smith, Amy Van Dyken, and many more.
More on Celebrity Fight Night
Even after death, Muhammad Ali remains a larger-than-life figure.
That was clear Saturday, March 18, 2017 at the fundraising gala that Ali was associated with for 20 years, Celebrity Fight Night. This year's event, the 23rd, took place at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona.
Proceeds from the event go to charities including the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute.
Ali, the former world heavyweight boxing champion whose fame transcended sport, died June 3, 2016, in Scottsdale.
Actor Harrison Ford was the honored guest for 2017, but most in attendance paid tribute to Ali.
"We always like coming here," Ali's daughter Laila Ali said before the event. "There is so much love for the Ali family here."
On the red carpet before the event, Arizona Cardinals' receiver Larry Fitzgerald said it was a bittersweet occasion without Ali being present.
"Boxer Ernie Shavers fought Ali in 1977 and joked that Ali called him "Acorn" because of his shaved head. "He said after the fight that I was a hard nut to crack," Shavers said. "But we were friends long before we fought. I miss Ali. He was a kind man with a big heart and a great person.
"It is sad," Fitzgerald said. "There is a big void in the world with him not being here. But I think everybody here understands it is his legacy that we are honoring tonight.
Ali's grandson, Jacob Wertheimer, summed up the spirit of the evening when he spoke alongside his grandmother.
"It doesn't make sense for me to think that my grandfather is gone," Wertheimer said. "When I look around this room and see how much work and love and dedication goes into this night, I don't think he's gone."
Actress Sharon Stone and talk-show host Larry King teamed up for a special presentation in Ali's honor.
Other attendees included Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn, Stefano Ricci, Larry King, David Foster, Michael Carbajal, Nancy Lieberman, Brian McKnight, Sam Moore, Melissa Peterman, The Shadow Boxers and many more.
Country-music star Reba McEntire hosted the event for the 12th consecutive year.
About Celebrity Fight Night
Celebrity Fight Night Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1994 by Jimmy Walker to support the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, as well as numerous other charities. For more information, visit "http://www.celebrityfightnight.org".
Sponsors of this year's event included The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, USA Today Sports, Porsche, Tequila Patron, GoDaddy, M Group Scenic Studios, and GO Media Companies.
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