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Ali to pump up Foster gig

May 25 2012
Victoria's David Foster, right, bumps fists with Muhammad Ali on stage at Celebrity Fight Night XVIII on March 24 in Phoenix. Foster and Ali will pair up again this weekend at David Foster Foundation's Miracle Concert and Gala. The 25th anniversary Miracle Weekend begins today at 6 a.m. with a 12-hour radiothon. 

Victoria's David Foster, right, bumps fists with Muhammad Ali on stage at Celebrity Fight Night XVIII on March 24 in Phoenix. Foster and Ali will pair up again this weekend at David Foster Foundation's Miracle Concert and Gala. The 25th anniversary Miracle Weekend begins today at 6 a.m. with a 12-hour radiothon.

Photograph by: Robyn Beck, Getty Images , timescolonist.com (May 2012)

When Muhammad Ali appears here Saturday, fans will be "in the presence of greatness," said David Foster.

Although in declining health since being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, the legendary boxer and humanitarian knocked Foster out by agreeing to appear during his foundation's Miracle Weekend, which starts today.

"Is there any human being on the planet greater than Muhammad Ali?" said Foster, a Victoria native.

"Gandhi's gone, Mother Teresa's gone. This guy is Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King rolled into one."

Ali, 70, is expected to arrive Saturday in time to appear that evening at the David Foster Foundation's Miracle Concert and Gala, featuring Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan, Kenny G, Pamela Anderson and others.

It's the centrepiece of its 25th anniversary Miracle Weekend, which begins today at 6 a.m. with Foster Friday, a 12-hour CFAX radiothon, and tonight's private black-tie gala at the Fairmont Empress.

"He'll be here barring any unforeseen circumstances," Foster said. "His health literally fluctuates from day to day." Foster, a 16-time Grammy Awardwinner, whose foundation assists families with children who need organ transplants, will never forget what The Greatest once said to him: "You're that white pretty-boy piano player, aren't you?"

Although the disease "is kicking his ass," Foster said Ali's spirit and physical strength keeps his good friend going.

"When I first met him, we'd play piano and he'd be onstage doing magic tricks, but a lot has changed in 15 years," said Foster, a regular at Ali's Celebrity Fight Night fundraisers in Phoenix, Arizona, benefiting his Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center.

"When he walks in anywhere, everybody stops," Foster said. "You're going to feel him all night, his presence."

Before appearing on the red carpet for tonight's gala celebrating the reopening of the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, Foster, his wife, Yolanda Hadid, Ruben Studdard, the Canadian Tenors and others will appear on CFAX 1070.

As he prepares for his third Foster Friday, morning man Al Ferraby said he's ready for anything -

like when Foster got Elizabeth Taylor on-air, did an impromptu number with Groban in studio and another with Kenny G playing sax on the phone.

"David's all about the unexpected," Ferraby said with a laugh. "But he knows what he's doing and he's a pro, so we let him do it."

Foster is expected to appear on-air this morning with people who have received organ transplants and their families, local personalities and other celebrities. The public is invited to drop by the studio at 1420 Broad St. to donate. To pledge online, call 2503861161.

Tickets for Saturday's concert and gala can be bought online through davidfostermiracleconcert.com or selectyourtickets.com or by calling 250-220-7777.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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