Muhammad Ali: Best quotes from the boxing legend

Looking back at some of Muhammad Ali’s greatest quotes.
Publish date:

Muhammad Ali, legendary boxer and social activist, died Friday. He was 74.

Ali leaves behind a legacy as not only one of the greatest athletes of all time but also one of the most influential. In the middle of his career, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title and didn’t box for four years after he was arrested for refusing to join the United States military.

Ali, who was born Cassius Clay before joining the Nation of Islam, resumed his boxing career after the Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971.

Ali’s unique life experiences and supreme confidence made him one of the most quotable people ever. The boxer’s brilliance was not only apparent in the ring, but also in front of the microphone, where the loquacious Ali gifted the world numerous quotes that have stood the test of time.

Here are some of our favorites throughout the years:

On Sonny Liston

“The crowd did not dream when they laid down their money / that they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.”

“I'll hit Liston with so many punches from so many angles he'll think he's surrounded.”

“Sonny Liston is nothing. The man can't talk. The man can't fight. The man needs talking lessons. The man needs boxing lessons. And since he's gonna fight me, he needs falling lessons.”

“I shook up the world! I shook up the world!”

Gallery: Ali-Liston I

On George Foreman

“I've seen George Foreman shadow boxing and the shadow won.”

“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick.”

“If you were surprised when Nixon resigned, just watch what happens when I whup Foreman's behind!”

MORE:Highlights from Ali’s biggest fights | HOFFER: Ali’s legacy extended well beyond the ring

On Joe Frazier

“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 he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wildlife.”

“It will be a killer and a chiller and a thriller when I get the gorilla in Manila.”

“I always bring out the best in men I fight, but Joe Frazier, I'll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I'm gonna tell ya, that's one helluva man, and God bless him.”

On Floyd Patterson

“I'll beat him so bad, he'll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.”

On Vietnam

“I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong….No Vietcong ever called me n-----.”

“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 n-----, 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.”

On Retirement

“Will they ever have another fighter who writes poems, predicts rounds, beats everybody, makes people laugh, makes people cry and is as tall and extra pretty as me?”

“I won't miss boxing. Boxing will miss me.”

Gallery: SI’s 100 Greatest Muhammad Ali Photos


“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'”

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

On How He Wants To Be Remembered

“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 stirred 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.”

– Rohan Nadkarni