- My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. ... Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.
- Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat,
if Liston goes back an inch farther he'll end up in a ringside seat.
Clay swings with his left, Clay swings with his right,
Look at young Cassius carry the fight
Liston keeps backing, but there's not enough room,
It's a matter of time till Clay lowers the boom.
Now Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing,
And the punch raises the Bear clean out of the ring.
Liston is still rising and the ref wears a frown,
For he can't start counting till Sonny goes down.
Now Liston is disappearing from view, the crowd is going frantic,
But radar stations have picked him up, somewhere over the Atlantic.
Who would have thought when they came to the fight?
That they'd witness the launching of a human satellite.
Yes the crowd did not dream, when they put up the money,
That they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.
- Poem composed prior to his match with Sonny Liston, in 1963, as quoted in "Brash Clay waxed poetic in 1963 visit to Nashville" by Bill Traughber in Nashville's The CIty Paper (4 June 2002)
- Variant transcription: Who would have thought, when they came to the fight,
that they'd witness a launchin' of a black satellite.
- In response to the question "Who writes your stuff?" in 1963, as quoted in "Brash Clay waxed poetic in 1963 visit to Nashville" by Bill Traughber in The CIty Paper [Nashville] (4 June 2002)
- "This is the legend of Cassius Clay,
The most beautiful fighter in the world today. He talks a great deal, and brags indeed-y, of a muscular punch that's incredibly speed-y. The fistic world was dull and weary, But with a champ like Liston, things had to be dreary. Then someone with color and someone with dash, Brought fight fans are runnin' with Cash. This brash young boxer is something to see And the heavyweight championship is his des-tin-y. This kid fights great; he’s got speed and endurance, But if you sign to fight him, increase your insurance. This kid's got a left; this kid's got a right, If he hit you once, you're asleep for the night. And as you lie on the floor while the ref counts ten, You’ll pray that you won’t have to fight me again. For I am the man this poem’s about, The next champ of the world, there isn’t a doubt. This I predict and I know the score, I’ll be champ of the world in ’64. When I say three, they’ll go in the third,
2 years ago So don’t bet against me, I’m a man of my word. He is the greatest! Yes! I am the man this poem’s about, I’ll be champ of the world, there isn’t a doubt. Here I predict Mr. Liston’s dismemberment, I’ll hit him so hard; he’ll wonder where October and November went. When I say two, there’s never a third, Standin against me is completely absurd. When Cassius says a mouse can outrun a horse, Don’t ask how; put your money where your mouse is! I AM THE GREATEST! (1964)
- I knew I had him in the first round. Almighty God was with me. I want everyone to bear witness, I am the greatest! I'm the greatest thing that ever lived. I don't have a mark on my face, and I upset Sonny Liston, and I just turned twenty-two years old. I must be the greatest. I showed the world. I talk to God everyday. I know the real God. I shook up the world, I'm the king of the world. You must listen to me. I am the greatest! I can't be beat!
- After defeating Sonny Liston for the first time (25 February 1964) as quoted in Sound and Fury : Two Powerful Lives, One Fateful Friendship (2007) by Dave Kindred, p. 58
- Variant transcription: I'm the greatest thing that ever lived. I'm so great I don't have a mark on my face. I shook up the world.
- As quoted in "When Clay shook up the world" (24 February 2004)
- "Archie's been living off the fat of the land. I'm here to give him his pension plan. When you come to the fight don't block the door. 'Cause you'll all go home after round four."
- Before his fight with Archie Moore, 1962
- I think Terrell will catch hell at the sound of the bell.
He's going around saying that he's a championship-fighter,
but when he meets me he fall 20 pound lighter.
He thinks that he's the real heavy weight champ
but when he meets me, he'll just be a tramp
Now I'm not sayin' just to be funny, but I'm fightin' Ernie because he needs the money.
- Ain't no reason for me to kill nobody in the ring, unless they deserve it.
- Comment after the match with Jimmy Ellis was stopped by the referee in the twelfth round (July 1971)
- I never thought of losing, but now that it's happened, the only thing is to do it right. That's my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.
- Statement before his fight with George Foreman (31 March 1973)
- Last night I had a dream, When I got to Africa,
I had one hell of a rumble.
I had to beat Tarzan’s behind first,
For claiming to be King of the Jungle.
For this fight, I’ve wrestled with alligators,
I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning
And throw thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad.
just last week, I murdered a rock,
Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.
I’m so fast, man,
I can run through a hurricane and don't get wet.
When George Foreman meets me,
He’ll pay his debt.
I can drown the drink of water, and kill a dead tree.
Wait till you see Muhammad Ali.
- If you were surprised when Nixon resigned, just watch what happens when I whup Foreman's behind!
- Comment prior to the "Rumble in the Jungle" (30 October 1974) as documented in When We Were Kings (1996)
- You been hearing about how bad I am since you were a little kid with mess in your pants! Tonight, I'm gonna whip you till you cry like a baby.
- To George Foreman before the start of the "Rumble in the Jungle" as the referee is giving them instructions (30 October 1974).
- That's the only way you gonna save this sucker. He's doomed.
- Comment prior to the "Rumble in the Jungle" about George Foreman prior to the fight, when referee Clayton warned Ali that if he didn't stop talking he would stop the fight. (30 October 1974)
- The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
- Interview in Playboy magazine (November 1975)
- Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are.
- As quoted in Jet magazine Vol. 58, No. 1 (August 1992)
- Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No 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. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.
- As quoted in Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties (1999) by Mike Marqusee; also quoted in the International Socialist Review Issue 33 (January–February 2004)
- If Ali says a mosquito can pull a plow, don't ask how. Hitch him up.
- Religions all have different names, but they all contain the same truths. … I think the people of our religion should be tolerant and understand people believe different things.
- When asked how he felt about the suspects in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks sharing his Islamic faith
- As quoted in "Bush: 'Justice Will Be Done'" at CNN (20 September 2001)
- What's really hurting me, the name Islam is involved, and Muslim is involved and causing trouble and starting hate and violence. … Islam is not a killer religion. … Islam means peace, I couldn't just sit home and watch people label Muslims as the reason for this problem.
- As quoted in "Muhammad Ali Defends His Religion" by Lisa L. Colangelo and Clem Richardson in New York Daily News (21 September 2001), p. 34
- I'm retiring because there are more pleasant things to do than beat up people.
- As quoted in Secrets of Power Persuasion for Salespeople (2003) by Roger Dawson , p. 192
- Joe Frazier is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head.
- Frazier is so ugly that he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wildlife.
- As quoted in "Ali's Quotes" at BBC Sport : Boxing (17 January 2007)
- It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.
- As quoted in "Ali's Quotes" at BBC Sport : Boxing (17 January 2007)
- I'm not the greatest; I'm the double greatest. Not only do I knock 'em out, I pick the round
- As quoted in "Ali's Quotes" at BBC Sport : Boxing (17 January 2007)
- Allah is the Greatest. I'm just the greatest boxer.
- As quoted in "Interview with Muhammad Ali" at SoundVision.com
- I'd like for them to say he took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience, teaspoon of generosity, one pint of kindness. He took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern, and then, he mix willlingness with happiness, he added lots of faith, and he stired it up well, then he spreads it over his span of a lifetime, and he served it to each and every deserving person he met.
- Friendship is a priceless gift that cannot be bought nor sold, but its value is far greater than a mountain made of gold; for gold is cold & lifeless - it can neither see nor hear, in time of trouble its powerless to cheer - it has no ears to listen, no heart to understand, it cannot bring you comfort or reach out a helping hand. So when you ask God for a gift, be thankful if sends not diamonds, pearls or riches but the love of real true friends. ** Response to Harold Bell, question about his view on friendship - Interview (video)
- I believe in Allah and in peace. I don't try to move into white neighborhoods. I don't want to marry a white woman. I was baptized when I was twelve, but I didn't know what I was doing. I'm not a Christian anymore. 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.
Interview with David Frost (1974)
- David Frost: What would you like people to think about you when you've gone?
Muhammad Ali: I'd like for them to say:
He took a few cups of love.
He took one tablespoon of patience,
One teaspoon of generosity,
One pint of kindness.
He took one quart of laughter,
One pinch of concern.
And then, he mixed willingness with happiness.
He added lots of faith,
And he stirred it up well.
Then he spread it over a span of a lifetime,
And he served it to each and every deserving person he met.
The Soul of a Butterfly (2004)
- The Soul of a Butterfly : Reflections on Life's Journey (2004) (written with Hana Yasmeen Ali) ISBN 0743255690
- Over the years my religion has changed and my spirituality has evolved. Religion and spirituality are very different, but people often confuse the two. Some things cannot be taught, but they can be awakened in the heart. Spirituality is recognizing the divine light that is within us all. It doesn't belong to any particular religion; it belongs to everyone.
- p. xvi
- We all have the same God, we just serve him differently. Rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, oceans all have different names, but they all contain water. So do religions have different names, and they all contain truth, expressed in different ways forms and times. It doesn't matter whether you're a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew. When you believe in God, you should believe that all people are part of one family. If you love God, you can't love only some of his children.
- p. xvii
- My soul has grown over the years, and some of my views have changed. As long as I am alive, I will continue to try to understand more because the work of the heart is never done. All through my life I have been tested. My will has been tested, my courage has been tested, my strength has been tested. Now my patience and endurance are being tested. Every step of the way I believe that God has been with me. And, more than ever, I know that he is with me now. I have learned to live my life one step, one breath, and one moment at a time, but it was a long road. I set out on a journey of love, seeking truth, peace and understanding. l am still learning.
- p. xix
- Wouldn't it be a beautiful world if just 10 percent of the people who believe in the power of love would compete with one another to see who could do the most good for the most people?
- p. xxiii
- If we continue to think and live as if we belong only to different cultures and different religions, with separate missions and goals, we will always be in self-defeating competition with each other.
Once we realize we are all members of humanity, we will want to compete in the spirit of love.
- p. xxiii
- In a competition of love we'll all share in the victory, no matter who comes first.
- p. xxiv
- To make America the greatest is my goal,
So I beat the Russians, and I beat the Pole,
and for the USA won the medal of gold.
Italians said: "You're Greater than the Cassius of old´´.
We like your name, we like your game,
So make Rome your home if you will.
I said I appreciate your kind hospitality,
But the USA is my country still,
'Cause they're waiting to welcome me in Louisville.
- Poem written after winning the gold medal in the 1960 Olympic Summer Games in Rome, Italy, p. 35
- Since I won't let the critics seal my fate, they
keep hollering I'm full of hate.
But they don't really hurt me none, 'cause
I'm doing good and having fun.
- "Still the Greatest", p. 109
- There live a great man named Joe
who was belittled by a loudmouth foe.
While his rival would taunt and tease
Joe silently bore the stings.
And then fought like gladiator in the ring.
- "The Silent Warrior", dedicated to Joe Frazier and his family, p. 112
- For every struggle that Joe survived,
For every dispute he endured, to rise,
Joe will go down in history
as a model for champions to come.
While Frazier was a man of few words,
Ali was a world of mouth,
but he found his place in history.
Now his heart can express him well.
Joe Frazier was a silent warrior,
whom Ali silently admired.
One could not rise without the other.
- "The Silent Warrior", p. 114
- "It's a lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself."
- St Peter, Anthony; The Greatest Quotations of All-Time, p. 142; Xlibris Corporation, 2010
Quotes about Ali
- I hit him so hard that I made him cry. He looked at me and said, "I'm going to get you for that." I respected him then, and I respect him now.
- Clay is a good enough fighter, but it's unfortunate that he's a Black Muslim. A champion should represent all sects, not one.
- Joe Louis, as quoted in "'Living legend' still commands respect of peers" by Andrew Baker in The Daily Telegraph (15 January 2002)
- I'd like to borrow his body for just forty-eight hours — there are three guys I'd like to beat up, and four women I'd like to make love to.
- Jim Murray, quoted in Sportsworld : An American Dreamland (1975) by Robert Lipsyte
- Clay is so young and has been misled by the wrong people... He might as well have joined the Ku Klux Klan.
- Under the influence of Elijah Mohammad — who preached that blacks should refuse to integrate with "white devils" — Ali made a point of dating only black women and lashed out at men and women who engaged in interracial sex. In an interview with Playboy, he declared: "A black man should be killed if he's messing with a white woman." When the interviewer asked about black women crossing the colour barrier, Ali responded: "Then she dies. Kill her, too."
It's unlikely that a white athlete who made such remarks would receive the praise that Michael Mann heaps on Ali. He says that the fighter "personified racial pride and self-knowledge". The Playboy journalist, who interviewed the boxer, was closer to the mark when he observed of his subject: "You're beginning to sound like a carbon copy of a white racist." … The transformation of Ali from a great fighter to a celebrated man of conscience and social purpose has succeeded so well because the actual history of his career has been altered to reflect the kinder, gentler man of today. Unpleasant remarks or facts from the past have been swept away or excused. … A more historically accurate appraisal of Ali would conclude that he was far from heroic outside the ring and was pitifully misused by his masters in the Nation of Islam. For his purposes, Elijah hijacked the impressionable young man's career and filled his head with racist nonsense.
By the time he finally broke free of the old Nation of Islam, in the 1970s, his career was in its last stages. He continued to fight long past his prime, in part to recover the money and time he had lost in his misadventures with the Black Muslims.
- In the early 1970s Muhammad Ali fought for the heavyweight title against George Foreman. The fight was held in the African nation of Zaire; it was insensitively called the "rumble in the jungle." Ali won the fight, and upon returning to the United States, he was asked by a reporter, "Champ, what did you think of Africa?" Ali replied, "Thank God my granddaddy got on that boat!" There is a characteristic mischievous pungency to Ali's remark, yet it also expresses a widely held sentiment. Ali recognizes that for all the horror of slavery, it was the transmission belt that brought Africans into the orbit of Western freedom. The slaves were not better off—the boat Ali refers to brought the slaves through a horrific Middle Passage to a life of painful servitude—yet their descendants today, even if they won't admit it, are better off. Ali was honest enough to admit it.
- Dinesh D'Souza, America: Imagine a World without Her (2014), Ch. 8
- Official website
- "Muhammad Ali : Art of boxing" - United Athletes Magazine
- Muhammad Ali at the Internet Movie Database
- WFMU's Putting the Ham in MuHAMmad
- Top Ali Fight Photos from Sports Illustrated
- Muhammad Ali Highlights in and out of the ring
- Muhammad Ali's Career Record
- Muhammad Ali's Life overview