Here is some of the wit and wisdom of the late boxing icon:
Butterflies and bees
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Ohhhh. Rumble, young man, rumble.”
— Ali’s signature verse, “Float like a butterfly …” was actually coined by one of his assistant trainers, Drew “Bundini” Brown.
I am the greatest
Now Clay swings with a right, what a beautiful swing
And the punch raises the Bear clear of the ring.
Liston is still rising, and the ref wears a frown
For he can’t start counting till Sonny comes down.
Now Liston disappears from view
The crowd is getting frantic
But our radar stations have picked him up —
He’s 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 lay down their money
That they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.
I am the greatest.
— part of a poem before upset title victory over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964
Thoughts on Vietnam
“I got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”
— Ali on February 17, 1966
On boxing and war
“In the ring we have a referee to stop the fight if one man should become too hurt physically. Boxing is nothing like going to war with machine guns, bazookas, hand grenades and bomber airplanes.”
— Ali at an anti-war demonstration in Chicago, 1967.
Right and wrong
“They did what they thought was right, and I did what I thought was right.”
— Ali on the government’s effort to send him to prison
It’s a thrilla
“It will be a killa and thrilla and a chilla when I get the Gorilla in Manila.”
— Ali before his victory over Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manila” on October 1, 1975
Joking with Marcos
“You’re not as dumb as you look. I saw your wife.”
— Ali to then Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos before the “Thrilla in Manila.”
You think the world was shocked when Nixon resigned?
Wait till I whup George Foreman’s behind.
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.
I done rassled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale.
Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone and hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean I make medicine sick.
— before regaining the title with a victory over Foreman on October 30, 1974.
Just a man
“He (God) gave me Parkinson’s syndrome to show me I’m just a man like everyone else. To show me I’ve got human frailties like everybody else does. That’s all I am: a man.”
— Ali in a 1987 interview.