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The wit and wisdom of Muhammad Ali

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.”

Beating Foreman

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.




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