He was the greatest heavyweight boxer the world has ever known. Muhammad Ali died late Friday night at 74 years old, after being hospitalized on Thursday, June 2, for respiratory problems that were complicated by the athlete's long battle with Parkinson's disease. He, of course, leaves behind a stunning legacy, and the best Muhammad Ali quotes are just some proof of this.
Though Ali was a powerhouse inside the ring, his iconic words hit the world with just as much force. Ali, at just the young age of 22, turned heads when he uttered the now famous "float like a butterfly" phrase in 1964. From then on, reporters, fans, and anyone tuned into the champion were listening to his every statement, wondering what new quote would become their mantra, something they couldn't get out of their head, or what would inspire them to continue on.
As Ali redefined the sport of boxing, he redefined what it meant to be an athlete in the public eye. Whether he was self-aggrandizing before a fight, taunting his opponents, or standing up for things he believed in, Ali was an effective and powerful speaker. Here are some of Ali's most memorable and important orations:
1. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
Ali said this for the first time before his fight with Sonny Liston, on Feb. 25, 1964. The quote has come to mean so many things that expand beyond the borders of boxing.
2. "He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life."
If there's one quote Ali lived by, it's this one.
3. "Don't count the days. Make the days count."
From the moment he stepped onto the boxing scene, Ali made all his days count, which is something that we all can learn from.
4. "I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning and throwed thunder in jail."
Sounds like hyperbole, but in a way, he was right. Ali overcame unimaginable obstacles. He delivered these lines before the 1974 heavyweight championship fight against George Foreman — also known as “The Rumble in the Jungle.”
5. "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth."
On top of being a legendary athlete, Ali was an activist and understood this kind of transaction more than anyone.
6. "It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out. It's the pebble in your shoe."
Ali knew that the hardest problems to overcome were the small, daily ones.
7. "I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was."
You have to appreciate that kind of self confidence.
8. "The will must be stronger than the skill."
Above all else, Ali believed in perseverance and hard work.
9. "I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world."
He was loved. He was also right about this.
10. "The man who has no imagination has no wings."
If you can't think outside of your own perceived limitations, you won't be able to rise above them.
11. "Impossible is just a 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 potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."
For Ali, nothing was impossible.
Though he will be missed, the boxing legend's words will continue to live on.
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