Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest, if not the greatest boxer of all time.He didn’t just fight in the ring; it was the battles he fought outside that he’ll be remembered for as well. He was a voice for civil rights, compassion, and equality in a controversial time. In the ring, he fought with his fists and physical strength. Outside of the ring, he used wisdom, respect, and honorable action to win. To honor “the greatest”, we’ve compiled the greatest of Muhammad Ali’s immortal words.
“A man who has no imagination has no wings.”
Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, regarded as the greatest heavyweight boxer in history, left quite a legacy of inspiration and controversy when he passed away June 3, at the age of 74. In and out of the ring, Ali was celebrated as an amazing athlete and role model to many.
“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
Boxing was only one part of Muhammad Ali. His story, told in and outside of the ring, is unparalleled in modern celebrity.
“Don’t count the days; make the days count.”
Standing up for his beliefs, even in the face of prison, is what makes Ali one of America’s true role models. Muhammad Ali is truly “the greatest.”
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.”
Ali was known to predict his wins and show an excess of confidence before fights.
“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”
Muhammad Ali was inspired by, and is seen here with Malcolm X in 1964. Because of Malcolm X, Ali secretly converted to Islam. Once he became the new champ, he renounced his “slave name” Cassius Clay and became known by his chosen Muslim name, Muhammad Ali.
“He’s (Sonny Liston) too ugly to be the world champ. The world champ should be pretty like me!”
Ali took down Sonny Liston after a mere minute with a sharp right shot to the jaw.
“I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just jet pilots. I’m in a world of my own.”
Ali trained for his comeback fights in more secluded, rural settings once he achieved great fame. Deer Lake. Those close to him agreed it was the best place to talk to him – away from it all he was quiet and contemplative.
“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
Even Ali couldn’t have predicted that his net worth, at the end of his life, would be $50 million. He truly was the greatest.
“I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”
Old champ haunts the outside of the new champ’s gym in 1971. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
“I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”
Ali was known for getting in his opponents’ heads and playing just as much of a mental game as a physical one. Taunting them and using their name in teasing rhymes was his favorite tactic.
“I’m the most recognized and loved man that ever lived cuz there weren’t no satellites when Jesus and Moses were around, so people far away in the villages didn’t know about them.”
Surrounded by children at a school in London, Muhammad Ali signs autographs. He made the stop in 1966 before a big match in town.
“I’m young; I’m handsome; I’m fast. I can’t possibly be beat.”
Ali was full of extraordinary speed and grace. His charm and wit were unexpected and unmatched. His legendary accomplishments are forever etched in history. His defeated opponents: Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle, and the epic defeat of Leon Spinks are just the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”
Ali sits and ponders the refusal of his draft deferment. Muhammad Ali tried to defer, saying he was a Muslim minister, and would not comment on the outcome in 1967.
“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”
Ali struggles to get up after being knocked down by Joe Frazier in 1971. Frazier wins by decision, becoming the champ.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
For his humanitarian efforts, Ali has won many awards and recognitions including United Nation Messenger of Peace, Amnesty International Lifetime Achievement Award, and Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”
The Ali Center promotes the core principles of the one and only, Muhammad Ali – Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect, and Spirituality – to achieve personal and global greatness.
“Braggin’ is when a person says something and can’t do it. I do what I say.”
At the age of 12, Ali (then Cassius Clay) was given a bike by his father. It was immediately stolen. “I’m gonna whup whoever stole my bike!”, said an already stubborn Clay – out for justice. A policeman advised the young Cassius Clay that he’d be better off if he learned how to fight before he challenged anyone. So he did…
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
Laila Ali gets her looks, her fight, and her biggest cheering section from her dad. Although female, she chose to follow in his immortal footsteps.
“How tall are you? So I can know in advance how far to step back when you fall down!”
Caught on camera, Cassius Clay loses his cool and rejoices as he becomes the new heavyweight champion of the world. He knocked out Sonny Liston to attain this new title in 1964. Soon after this, he would be known as Muhammad Ali.
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Ali took direction from his trainer, Angelo Dundee, to live up to his billing as “The Greatest” at City Parks Gym. He later took to rural Pennsylvania for a quieter, more focused experienced before opening his own training camp near Deer Lake.
“I’m not the greatest, I’m the double greatest.”
In 2002, Muhammad Ali traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan for a three day goodwill mission as the “U.N. Messenger of Peace”. Here, President George W. Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ali in 2005.
“I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail.”
The mission of the Muhammad Ali Center is to preserve and share the legacy and ideals of Muhammad Ali, to promote respect, hope, and understanding, and to inspire adults and children everywhere to be as great as they can be.
“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”
Ali’s influence has changed the world. He continues to be idolized, not just by athletes, but by celebrities and other well known role models.
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
An overzealous, young Ali shares his future predictions before a fight against Archie Moore. His first prediction becomes 100% correct. His second becomes accurate in just 7 rounds, not 8.
“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
An endearing close up of the late Muhammad Ali before a college football game in 2009. “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”
Young and old Muhammad Ali are portrayed on stage during a charity event in Kentucky.
“It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”
It was not enough to live it. Ali reviews his greatness in the newspaper after a huge victory.
“Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”
Muhammad Ali honors Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. at the very first celebration of the holiday. Here, he has a moment with King’s widow, Coretta Scott King in 1986.