In October 1974, at the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire, a 32-year-old Muhammad Ali knocked George Foreman out, snatching the world title from the previously undefeated heavyweight champion. He was still riding high at a press conference in London a month later. According to a wire report, Ali filibustered for 40 minutes, “non-stop,” even as the tour promoter, worried the fighter might lose his voice, tried to stepped in.
“Don’t you worry me,” Ali said, brushing the promoter off. “I can talk all night.”
And he could. Ali was a poet, a firebrand, a trash-talker, a zen master, the Yogi Berra of the modern era. The imminently quotable heavyweight boxer died in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday, June 3rd. He was 74.
Ali, who spent the last 30 years locked in a fierce battle with Parkinson’s syndrome, leaves behind a wife, nine children and a treasury of inspirational quotes. Below are some of his best.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.” via YouTube
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” via the BBC
“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” via The Port Arthur News
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” via Parade
“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” via The Sunday Express
“If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.” via The Telegraph
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” via Ebony magazine
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” via Time magazine
“Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up.” via the BBC
“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.” The New York Times via The Columbia Dictionary of Quotation
“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.” via the New York Times
“Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.” via Esquire
“I have wrestled with a alligator. I done tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail. That’s bad. Only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick — I’m so mean I make medicine sick.” via YouTube
“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.” via Parade
“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.” via History Channel
“I’m not the greatest. I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.” via History Channel
“It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am.” via History Channel
“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 Sunday Express via the Columbia Dictionary of Quotations
“I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.” via the BBC
“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.” via Parade