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Muhammad Ali turns 70: Heavyweight champion of verse's best quotes

17 JANUARY 2012

It was what set him apart from other fighters – Muhammad Ali's razor sharp rhymes. His witty phrases usually taunted opponents and always lauded his own prowess.

As he turns 70, we take a look at some of his best quotes  – some were comical, others inspirational, but all unforgettable.

He wrote his first rhyme aged 13, with the line: "This guy is done, I'll stop him in one," and some even say he was the pioneer of rap.

 

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Fighting talk:

"You think I was shocked when Nixon resigned? Wait till I whup George Foreman's behind.I done something new for this fight, I done tassled with an alligator! That's right. I have tassled with an alligator! I done tussled with a whale! I done handcuffed lightning, throwed thunder in jail! Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone. Hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine sick."

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

"I'm not the greatest; I'm the double greatest. Not only do I knock 'em out, I pick the round."

"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 laid down their money, that they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny!"

(Responding to sports journalist Howard Cosell)
"And you're always talking about, 'Muhammad, you're not the same man you were 10 years ago.' Well, I asked your wife, and she told me you're not the same man you was two years ago!"

"I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark."

"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."

There are two things that are hard to hit and see, that's a spooky ghost and Muhammed Ali.

 

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"I am the greatest! I'm young; I'm handsome; I'm fast. I can't possibly be beat. They all must fall in the round I call. I should be a postage stamp. That's the only way I'll ever get licked."

"If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologise."

"It's hard to be humble, when you're as great as I am."

"It's not bragging if you can back it up."

"My toughest fight was with my first wife."

"I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was"

"I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me." "I've seen George Foreman shadow boxing and the shadow won."

Boxing reflections:

"It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, and waves pound the sand. I just beat people up."

"No one knows what to say in the loser's locker room."

"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."

"The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights."

"There are more pleasant things to do than beat up people."

"There are no pleasures in a fight but some of my fights have been a pleasure to win."

 

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

Inspirational:

"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."

"It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself."

The man who has no imagination has no wings."

"It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen."

"To be able to give away riches is mandatory if you wish to possess them. This is the only way that you will be truly rich."

"Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change."

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

"Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision."

On life:

"It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe."

"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."

 

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"Old age is just a record of one's whole life."

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."

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

"We have one life; it soon will be past; what we do for God is all that will last."

"Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are."

"Friendship... is not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything."

"Inside of a ring or out, ain't nothing wrong with going down. It's staying down that's wrong."

Ali wisdom:

"What keeps me going is goals."

"When you can whip any man in the world, you never know peace."

A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light and I'm crowing.

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.

Hating people because of their colour is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong.

I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want.

 

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I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.

"I don't always know what I'm talking about but I know I'm right."

"If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, they can sure make something out of you."

"My way of joking is to tell the truth. That's the funniest joke in the world. "

"Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams - they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do - they all contain truths."

"Silence is golden when you can't think of a good answer."

"Superman don't need no seat belt."

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