On Thursday, Sports Illustrated's popular, annual Swimsuit issue launched as nineteen of this year's beautiful SI models, including cover girl Kate Upton, paid homage to Muhammad Ali's life and legacy at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
The models posed for photographers in the same ring that encapsulated Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes in their 1980 championship bout. A battle-worn shell of himself, the great Ali would badly lose to the young champion in what was his final bout in Las Vegas.
Caesar's Palace staff have apparently well-preserved the ring which, to the amazement of some, looked to be in mint condition some 32 years later.
Pictured: 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Crystal Renn talks to FightSaga.
"This is so cool, to think we were standing in the same ring where Muhammad Ali actually fought," said model Crystal Renn. "He's so special... The way he stood up for what he believed in and broke down so many barriers."
Renn is no stranger to breaking down barriers, herself. As a teen she was told she'd have to lose a substantial amount of weight to become a successful modeI. Refusing to accept that dire assessment, Renn went on to become, arguably, of the most successful plus-size models ever and is believed to be the only plus-size model to appear on a Harper's Bazaar cover. She has also appeared in four international Vogue editions and has enjoyed lucrative contracts with many high-profile plus-size clothing manufacturers such as Lane Bryant, Evans and Torrid.
Renn's story is indicative of the many people - outside of boxing - Muhammad Ali has touched.
Courtesy: Sports Illustrated
With an enlarged poster of a December 1974 Sports Illustrated cover honoring Ali as the publication's 'Sportsman of the Year' in the backdrop, Renn, Kate Upton and the rest of this year's Sports Illustrated models posed for several minutes in the ring.
Thursday's event served as a small precursor to Saturday night's star-studded tribute to Muhammad Ali at the 'Keep Memory Alive Power of Love Gala' at the MGM Grand. The event, a tremendous success, raised funds for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the Muhammad Ali Center. The gala drew special guests and celebrities including Sugar Ray Leonard, Stevie Wonder, Anthony Hopkins, Jim Brown, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and Manny Pacquiao.
The two-hour special from Saturday night's gala will be broadcast on ABC and ESPN2 on February 25th in the U.S.
The "Sports Illustrated 2012 Swimsuit Issue" is now on sale at newsstands, tablet, mobile and on SI.com/Swimsuit.