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Sports, Hollywood VIPs arrive for Muhammad Ali 70th birthday salute

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Three days of rehearsals start today after three days of TV equipment and stage sets load-in for the most ambitious star-studded gala tribute ever planned for Las Vegas, and even Fighter of the Decade Manny Pacquiao — said to be on the verge of retirement — is flying in from the Philippines to attend the 70th birthday salute to Muhammad Ali at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.

Las Vegas fight promoter Bob Arum, who used to promote Ali, is promising that George Foreman, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks, Chuck Wepner, George Chuvalo, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy “Hitman” Hearns and Roberto Duran also will attend. They’ll be staged under the spotlight in two boxing rings facing Ali. Rumors are rampant that Evander Holyfield, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Earnie Shavers, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather Jr. might also join the festivities.

Manny, interestingly, sits Friday here for his defamation deposition against Mayweather. He’s using the U.S. trip for a three-city promo tour for his next welterweight title fight June 9 against Timothy Bradley and meets with new New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin in New York next Wednesday. Manny says he will start four weeks of training in Manila and then move to Freddie Roach’s gym in L.A. until fight week when it’s rumored that he will announce his retirement after that bout.

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