Muhammad Ali today at 70 years old
Muhammad Ali, even at 70 years old, is one of the most revered sports figures today.
Ali is more than just the greatest boxer alive, he's a cultural icon that ignites headlines and spills quotable verses with ease from his lips. His jokes, comments and poetry may even outlast his pugilism.
In honor of his legacy, I have here a selection of 10 of his most interesting phrases. It was a tough task trying to whittle it down but here it is.
"I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale;
Handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail;
Only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick;
I'm so mean I make medicine sick."
In a press conference, Ali humorously said he'd done the above activities to prepare for his 1974 heavyweight world title fight against an undefeated George Foreman.
Viewing how badly Foreman was defeated, a part of me is inclined to believe him.
"Ain't he ugly? He's too ugly to be the world's champ. The world's champ should be pretty like me."
Here is a 22-year-old Ali when he was still called Cassius Clay and was preparing to face Sonny Liston for the first time in 1964.
The interviewer was too tickled by Ali's quick witty response to his mere mention of Liston's name to even finish asking Ali the original question he intended.
"I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be who I wanna be and think what I wanna think."
A young Muhammad Ali knew from the jump that he was his own man as demonstrated by this excerpt from an early interview.
"Man! This is the wrong place to get tired."
Muhammad Ali claimed in an interview that he said this to a worn-out George Foreman that was tired from punching air during their 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle."
"Are you colored?"
Muhammad Ali, a young Mike Tyson, and a semi-retired Sugar Ray Leonard appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show. During this point, Ali rained praises on the then undefeated Mike Tyson's ability.
At one point, Ali called Tyson the greatest. Hall then asked Ali if he believed Tyson hit harder than Earnie Shavers, one of the hardest punchers of all time. Ali defeated Shavers in 1977.
Ali would reply to Hall's question with the above quote that instantly sent the live studio audience as well as Hall, Leonard and Tyson himself rolling with laughter.
Parkinson's Disease may have affected Ali's physical abilities by this point, but it could never take away or slow down his quick wit and sense of humor.
"I am the Lord of the Ring. Howard, it all comes around me. I know my value. I know who I am....They are nothing without Muhammad Ali.
Ali and sports journalist Howard Cosell shared a special relationship over the years. Cosell threw Ali tough and personal questions and Ali used charm and wit to dodge or answer them.
In an interview in 1977, a 35-year-old Ali was nearing his end as a professional boxer. He was overweight, slower and only getting older. Cosell questioned whether he would fight again and who he'd fight against.
Ali gave the only type of answer he could give, one that praised his status and demeaned his potential opponents.
"This Man [Has] Two Chances: Slim and None."
Ali, during a legendary interview with British sportscaster David Frost in 1974 to promote his "Rumble in the Jungle" against George Foreman, laid out what he thought of the undefeated Foreman's chances.
The quick-witted answer provided laughs and braggadocio from the trash-talking king.
"I didn't care what he said because he paid $250 for the seat. I went to the bank laughing."
During an interview in 1969 with Ian Wooldridge, Ali commented on how he heard ringside attendees to his fights call him names and cry for him to be beaten brutally and knocked out.
Ali was happy to take their money while continuing to beat everyone put in front of him.
"We gonna float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. AAAAH! Rumble young man rumble. AAAAH!"
Drew "Bundini" Brown coined the famous "float like a butterfly" phrase that is heavily attached to Ali. Brown worked as Ali's cornerman and became an actor with small roles in such films as "Shaft" and "The Color Purple" before passing away in 1987.
"My only fault is I don't realize how great I really am."
Ali, during an interview in the early 1970's before fighting Joe Frazier, admitted that he does have a fault. That fault of course would be him not realizing how great he is.
"I'd like for them to say he took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience, one teaspoon of generosity, one pint of kindness, he took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern, and then he mixed willingness with happiness. He added lots of faith and he stirred it up well. Then he spread it over the span of a lifetime and he served to each and every deserving person he met."
In a rare humble moment, an Ali in his prime during the early 1970's responded to a question from David Frost about how he wanted to be remembered. The result was this fantastic "Recipe for Life."
Though not a brash and cocky one-liner, it's a recipe worth remembering.
"Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat. If Liston goes back an inch farther, he'll end up in a ringside seat. Clay swings to the left, Clay swings to the right! Look at Cassius carry the fight! Liston keeps backing, but there's not enough room. It's a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom. Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing! And the punch raises the bear clear out of the ring. Yes the crowd did not dream when they laid down their money that they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny."
Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, composed a brash poem about his future opponent Sonny Liston in 1963. What's more incredible than the poem is the fact that he carried out his promise.
Clay, soon to become Ali, would go on to eclipse Liston's celebrated career.