A petition calling for boxing icon Muhammad Ali to be given an honorary British knighthood has been signed by more than 15,000 people.

Set up just four days ago by ex-world heavyweight champion David Haye the change.org campaign asks for formal recognition of the sporting star and his work helping others.

Ali is a genuine hero, one of the greatest sportsmen ever known, a great human being who has campaigned against poverty and discrimination and for young people and the sick throughout his life, and in particular here in Great Britain.

David Haye
The petition is more than half way to its target number of signatures Credit: change.org

The petition, addressed to David Cameron reads:

Honorary Knighthoods are to recognise non-British citizens who have made major contributions to this country and its well-being. I believe Muhammad Ali is the perfect recipient, and it is long-overdue that this country awarded him one. He will be the first muslim to be so honoured, acknowledging him for the inspirational figure he really is. I urge Prime Minister David Cameron to make this happen. I call upon Boris Johnson, as Mayor of London where Muhammad Ali has done so much good work, to back the honour. I know many other sportsmen and women will sign too to win this honour for the supreme sportsman. Muhammad loves the UK, and will be here in March for the opening of a major exhibition about his career and life. Sadly, because of his increasingly frail health, it is likely to be the very last time he will be able to visit the country he loves. This great man has received many major awards and high honours worldwide - I believe it's time the UK honoured him too. Please sign to win the wonderful Muhammad Ali an Honorary Knighthood in the UK.

David Haye

Supporters of the campaign have described the call for a knighthood for Ali as a "no-brainer" and hailed the former boxer as "a legend" as well as paying tribute to his courage in the face of adversity both in his professional and personal life.

Foreign citizens occasionally receive honorary knighthoods or damehoods through UK orders if they are deemed to have made an important contribution to relations between their country and Britain. They are not dubbed, and they do not use the style 'Sir' or 'Dame'.