Memorable Quotes from Muhammad Ali

Updated June 13, 2022 | Infoplease Staff

From the mouth of the Champ

Compiled by John Gettings

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

Time magazine (1978)

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

New York Times (1977)

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

New York Times (1962)

"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."

—after announcing he's joined the Nation of Islam (1964)

"I ain't got no quarrel with those Vietcong."

—refusing military induction based on religious grounds (1966)

"I am the greatest."

—favorite slogan first used in 1962

"I'm so mean I make medicine sick"

—promoting his "Rumble in the Jungle" bout with George Foreman in 1974

"I said a lot of things in the heat of the moment that I shouldn't have said. Called him names I shouldn't have called him. I apologize for that. I'm sorry. It was all meant to promote the fight."

—from an interview in the New York Times (March 2001), apologizing to former opponent Joe Frazier, who he called an "Uncle Tom" and "a gorilla" while promoting the first of their three legendary fights in 1971

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

Playboy magazine (1975)

"I strongly object to the fact that so many newspapers have given the American public and the world the impression that I have only two alternatives in taking this stand: either I go to jail or go to the Army. There is another alternative and that alternative is justice. If justice prevails, if my Constitutional rights are upheld, I will be forced to go neither to the Army nor jail. In the end I am confident that justice will come my way for the truth must eventually prevail."

—from his official statement refusing induction to the armed forces (1967)

"I'm the best. I just haven't played yet."

—when asked about his golf game

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."

—catchphrase said to have originated with his aide Drew "Bundini" Brown (1964)

"I have the world heavyweight title not because it was 'given' to me, not because of my race or religion, but because I won it in the ring through my own boxing ability."

—from his official statement refusing induction to the armed forces (1967)

"Howard Cosell was gonna be a boxer when he was a kid—only they couldn't find a mouthpiece big enough."

—joking about the longtime ABC-TV boxing broadcaster (1974)

"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."

Sunday Express (London) (1963)

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

—on fight with Floyd Patterson (1965)

"I know I got it made while the masses of Black people are catchin' hell, but as long as they ain't free, I ain't free."

Playboy magazine (1975)

"He's too ugly to be the champ!"

—on heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston

Sources +

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