'I Am the Greatest:' Muhammad Ali in His Own Words

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Muhammad Ali with his trainer Angelo Dundee ahead of his fight with Ernie Terrell at the Astrodome, Houston, February 1967. Action Images/MSI/Reuters

Muhammad Ali was not only a boxing champion, he was a championship talker. Following are some quotations from Ali, who died on Friday at 74:

  • "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
  • "It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up."
  • "Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up."
  • "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."

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  • "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 not the greatest. I'm the double greatest. Not only do I knock 'em out, I pick the round. I'm the boldest, the prettiest, the most superior, most scientific, most skillfullest fighter in the ring today."
  • "I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin' hell but as long as they ain't free, I ain't free."
  • "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong."
  • "I may not talk perfect white talk-type English but I give you wisdom."
  • "If Ali says a mosquito can pull a plow, don't ask how. Hitch him up!"
  • "I'm the onliest person that can speak to everybody in the whole world. My name is known in Serbia, Pakistan, Morocco. These are countries that don't follow the Kentucky Derby."
  • "Sometimes I feel a little sad because I can see how some things I said could upset some people. But I did not deliberately try to hurt anyone. The hype was part of my job, like skipping rope."
  • "Now the things that once were so effortless—my strong voice and the quickness of my movements—are more difficult. But I get up every day and try to live life to the fullest because each day is a gift from God."
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'I Am the Greatest:' Muhammad Ali in His Own Words | Culture