By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE - Lennox Lewis has come through with a hefty donation to honor the career and ideals of his idol, Muhammad Ali.
Lewis, a former heavyweight boxing champion, pledged $300,000 over five years for the Muhammad Ali Center, officials said Wednesday.
The $43.5 million center is being built in Ali's hometown.
Lewis sees the contribution as an expression of gratitude to Ali for influencing him as an athlete and a public figure.
"I want to be part of Muhammad Ali's legacy in helping people - especially children - to find greatness within," Lewis said in a statement.
Ali is a former three-time heavyweight champion. Both Ali and Lewis are Olympic gold-medal winners.
The six-story, 93,000-square-foot center will overlook the Ohio River in downtown Louisville.
It will highlight Ali's humanitarian efforts with an emphasis on conflict resolution. It also will feature exhibits on Ali's boxing career.
Lewis is the first professional athlete to pledge money to the center, said center spokeswoman Jeanie Kahnke.
His pledge also is one of the largest individual donations, she said.
Ali's wife, Lonnie, said the family was grateful for Lewis' support.
"This gift says a lot about the man," Lonnie Ali said.
"Lennox is about giving back and he believes in what we're doing. I'm glad he has taken the lead and I hope he is able to inspire others."
Lewis, Britain's first world heavyweight champion in more than a century, assists various youth and education-focused organizations in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Work has been completed on a ground-level parking garage that will be beneath the Ali Center.
Construction of the center began last week, and steel girders are springing up on the site.
The center is expected to open in the fall of 2005.
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