His press conferences and interviews redefined the way people saw boxers – and to a larger extent, professional athletes in general – and made sportswriters everywhere reconsider their own turns of phrase.
Although his voice was eventually silenced by his battle with Parkinson’s disease, Ali was as known for the comical insults he dished to opponents as he was for the self-aggrandizing brags he tossed out about himself, he was also a fiercely intelligent and introspective man.
Here are some of his best quotes that are appropriate for everyone, whether or not they consider themselves The Greatest.
•”Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.”
•”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 boring. ”
•”Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”
• “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.”
•”If you even dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize.”
•”I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
•”Life is a gamble. You can get hurt, but people die in plane crashes, lose their arms and legs in car accidents; people die every day. Same with fighters: some die, some get hurt, some go on. You just don’t let yourself believe it will happen to you.”
•’I’m young; I’m handsome I’m fast. I can’t possibly be beat.”
• “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them, a desire, a dream, a vision.”
•”Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams – they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do – they all contain truths.”
•”The service you do for other is the rent you pay for your room her on Earth.”
•”I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just jet pilots. I’m in a world of my own.”
•”Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”