LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville boxing legend and former heavyweight boxing champion Jimmy Ellis died Tuesday after a long fight with Alzheimer's disease, according to his brother Jerry Ellis. He was 74.
The World Boxing Heavyweight ruler, perhaps best known for being the great Muhammad Ali's good friend and even better sparring partner, died at Baptist Health hospital.
Ellis left a lasting legacy inside and outside the ring. Ellis was known worldwide as the 1968 to 1970 heavyweight boxing champion. However, it was his commitment to his community that left an impression on young athletes.
"Jimmy had a big family. So he became a very family oriented person. So that just fit right into Jimmy's style working with younger people," said Jerry Ellis, the youngest of nine brothers and sisters.
"So it just came natural for my big brother to mentor youth," he said.
When Ellis retired from the sport because of an eye injury, he didn't lose focus of mentoring young athletes.
"He was here sometimes twice a day," Terry Middleton said, who owns a boxing and martial arts academy.
"Jimmy was one of the best and passed on his talents and traits to others," Middleton said.
That humility and humble aspect also inspired his children. "He just showed that you don't have to be cocky in this sport or anything like that, you can still be good as anyone out there," Jimmy's youngest son Jeff Ellis said.
He said his father was a spiritual man, who was very active in his church and always found time for others until Alzheimer's disease took the fight out of him.
"If I'm half the man that my brother was, I'll be very successful in life. I'm very proud of him. We're going to miss him," Jerry Ellis said.
Visitation services for Ellis are scheduled for Sunday and funeral services take place on Monday. Both services will be held at Canaan Missionary Baptist Church on Hikes Lane in Louisville. Additional details, including times, have not been released.
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