The boxing legend gave the inspiring speech in 1977, four years before his permanent retirement
Credit: Dan Grossi/AP

Not only did Muhammad Ali have a big presence inside the ring as a professional boxer, the sports legend also had an even bigger presence outside of it. Ali died on Friday at the Phoenix-area hospital he had spent the past few days being treated for respiratory complications. He was 74.

Back in July 1977 during a four-day visit to England, four years before his permanent retirement, the star was interviewed by Reg Gutteridge for a TV show from Eldon Square Recreation Center in Newcastle. There Ali was asked by a young fan about what he would do if/when he walks away from the boxing world. Little did anyone expect to hear Ali deliver such an awe-inspiring speech on the meaning of life.

“Life is not really long,” the reigning heavyweight boxing champion said. “Let’s say the average person is 30-years-old. If you’re 30 years old, you’re not but about 7 years old. How can I prove it? Add up all the 7, 8, 9 hours you slept each night for 30 years. Last night when you went to bed and woke up this morning, you don’t remember a thing. You’ve been unconscious for about 8 years if you’re 30 years old.”

Ali explained the various monotonies in life that pass by before one realizes their true purpose in life.

“Add up all your traveling, all your sleeping, your school, your entertainment, you probably spent half your life doing nothing,” he said. “So now I’m 35 years old. 30 more years I’ll be 65. We don’t have no more influence, we can’t do nothin’ much at 65, your wife will tell you that.

“When you’re 65, ain’t too much more to do so. Did you know I will be 65 in 30 more years? In those 30 years, I have to sleep 9 years. I don’t have 30 years of daylight. And out of my next 30 years, I might have 16 years to be productive. What am I going to do in the next 16 years, what is the best thing I can do? Get ready to meet God.”

Ali further stated that “going into real estate, going in business, teaching boxers, that won’t get me to heaven.” Rather, selfless actions for the sake of humanity.

“So what I’m gonna do when I get out of boxing? Is to get myself ready to meet God. Don’t people die everyday? It’s a scary thing to think that I’m going to hell to burn eternally forever so what am I gonna do? When I get out of boxing or when I’m through I’m gonna do all I can to help people,” said Ali.

“He wants to know how do we treat each other, how do we help each other. So I’m going to dedicate my life to using my name and popularity to helping charities, helping people, uniting people,” he continued, adding, “We need somebody in the world to help us all make peace. So when I die, if there’s a heaven, I want to see it.”

“The most important thing is what’s gonna happen when you die, are you going to go to heaven or hell, and that’s eternity. How long is eternity? So what am I gonna do when I’m through fighting? I only have 16 years to be productive, get myself ready to meet God and go to the best place, does that make sense?”