Tshibangu Mukumbay pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the sweat from his brow.
Despite the heat and the beaming afternoon sun, the Congo native wore his black suit buttoned and his tie pulled tight.
Mukumbay is seeking to become the next president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But on this weekday, he stood far from his home country, on the front lawn of a west Louisville home with nearly 200 other people looking to pay homage to humanitarian and boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Ali’s famous Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight bout with George Foreman took place in Zaire, which is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mukumbay said the allure of Ali remains in the African country of some 67 million people.
“Congolese look at him as a role model to follow because he has a discipline and spirit of leadership,” he said.
Mukumbay is one of many dignitaries expected to visit Louisville this week to pay tribute to Ali.
King Abdullah II of Jordan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are also expected to attend Ali’s funeral Friday, according to a report from the Courier-Journal.
Billy Crystal, Bryant Gumbel and former president Bill Clinton will eulogize Ali, while Will Smith and Lennox Lewis are among the pallbearers for the boxing legend.
And Louisville city officials expect huge crowds of fans to descend on the city this week as Ali’s death is spurring a handful of events in his honor.
More than 30,000 tickets are available for a set of funeral services Thursday and Friday at the KFC Yum! Center and Freedom Hall, according to a family spokesman.
Festivals, marches and other memorials are scheduled in the days leading up to Ali’s funeral.
It’s unclear just how many people are expected to visit Louisville for the services and memorial events. Stacey Yates, spokeswoman for the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the economic impact of Ali’s death won’t be finalized until after the upcoming weekend. But, it’s expected to be significant.
“The adoration for Ali seems to be very strong,” Yates said.
To give some context, she said the visitor’s bureau is seeing a sharp spike in social media engagement, which is primarily how they are pushing the info out to people, she said.
The bureau’s initial post to Facebook on the night of Ali’s death drew more than 100,000 engagements from social media users, which is a record, Yates said. She said posts related to the Kentucky Derby typically draw about 20,000 engagements via social media.
The reach of the bureau’s social media is also stretching across the world this week, with impressions coming from the United Kingdom, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a press conference Monday that city and police leaders will be prepared for the influx of people.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been planning for this day for quite some time,” he said.
Fischer said there is “a full plan in place” to deal with traffic, dignitaries and residents looking to pay homage to the man many call “The Greatest.”
A Louisville Metro Police spokesperson said a list of street closures and traffic plans will likely be released later this week.