Barack Obama: 'Muhammad Ali Was The Greatest. Period.'

"Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it," president writes in moving tribute

President Barack Obama has issued an official White House statement and moving tribute following the death of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Credit: Chris Smith/Popperfoto

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have issued an official White House statement and moving tribute following the death of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. "Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we're also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time," the president wrote.

"Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he'd tell you. He'd tell you he was the double greatest; that he'd 'handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail," Obama wrote. "But what made The Champ the greatest – what truly separated him from everyone else – is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing."

The president revealed that, in his private study near the Oval Office, he has a pair of Ali's boxing gloves encased near the iconic photo of the boxer hovering over a fallen Sonny Liston; Obama posted a photo of him sitting below that photograph in his initial Twitter tribute to Ali, who was in attendance at Obama's January 2009 inauguration.

Obama continued, "'I am America,' he once declared. 'I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me – black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.' That's the Ali I came to know as I came of age – not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us.

"He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn't. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton, who awarded Ali with the Presidential Citizens Medal at a White House ceremony, also remembered the boxer in a statement that stated Ali was "a blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again."

"Muhammad Ali shook up the world," Obama concluded in his tribute to Ali. "And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace."

We remember Muhammad Ali in his own words of wisdom and bravado. Watch here.