Muhammad Ali Quotes and Facts: Everything You Need to Know About a Fighter That Truly Was the Greatest

Muhammad Ali is remembered as a figure in athletics, activism, and philanthropy. The boxing legend began his life on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. Known simply as “The Greatest” in his sport of choice, he is now equally well known for his values, as well as the myriad of Muhammad Ali quotes that continue to inspire his enduring fans.

But for the great heights that he achieved, his origins were far humbler. Muhammad Ali’s real name was Cassius Clay. He enjoyed a quiet childhood until the age of twelve when he began training in the sport that would one day make him famous.

Clay was first introduced to boxing after a police officer suggested that it would be a good way for him to learn how to exercise his frustrations. He took to the training fast: six years and nearly one hundred amateur wins later he would go on to collect a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. A star already at just eighteen years old, Muhammad Ali’s age never held him back.

After impressing at the Olympics, Clay went on to find fast success on the professional circuit. His pro debut occurred in October of 1960 where won in six rounds against Tunney Hunsaker.

Over the course of the next three years, Clay won nineteen more matches, fifteen of which he took by knockout. His matches were characterized equally by the grace of his footwork, and by the sharpness of his tongue. He was famous for his ego, claiming that Madison Square Garden was too small for him. He was equally well known for his insults. In 1963 Clay infamously referred to opponent Doug Jones as a “fat little man”.

In 1964, he publicly converted to Islam, and shortly thereafter changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali.

Do you know what his most famous fights are? Wondering how old is Muhammad Ali or is Muhammad Ali dead? Keep reading for more information on the legendary fighter!

Big Fights

Though the first phase of his career featured many famous Muhammad Ali fights, two of the most prominent early bouts were against Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson.

The Liston fight was of particular importance. Sonny Liston was the reigning heavyweight champion at the time. A bear of a man, he dwarfed Muhammad in size and power. He used the moments leading up to the fight as an opportunity to produce several noteworthy soundbites, telling reporters that after he beat Liston he would “donate him to the zoo”. Yet in spite of his outward confidence, many experts assumed that the bravado was a way to mask fear. Some commentators even speculated that he would not show up to the match.

The critics were quickly silenced on February 24, 1964 when the future champion earned an impressive upset with a sixth-round knockout. Shortly after, he would defend his title in a high-profile match against former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson. Muhammad won, though some suspect that the match was set up as a favor to Patterson to help him earn money to deal with tax problems.

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Best Muhammad Ali Quotes

Muhammad Ali quotes on being a champion:

“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.

 “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”

“I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”

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

“I’m young; I’m handsome; I’m fast. I can’t possibly be beat.”

“I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”

“I shook up the world. Me! Whee!”

“He’s too ugly to be the world champ. The world champ should be pretty like me!” – said about Sonny Liston

 “I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just jet pilots. I’m in a world of my own.”

“I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail.”

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”

“It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”

“I’m the most recognized and loved man that ever lived cuz there weren’t no satellites when Jesus and Moses were around, so people far away in the villages didn’t know about them.”

“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”

“Braggin’ is when a person says something and can’t do it. I do what I say.”

“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.”

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Muhammad Ali quotes impossible:

“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.”

Muhammad Ali quotes that are inspirational:

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

 “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it — then I can achieve it.”

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

“If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.”

“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.”

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

“A man who has no imagination has no wings.”

Muhammad Ali Quotes on religion:

“Everything I do now, I do to please Allah…Being a true Muslim is the most important thing in the world to me. It means more to me than being black or being American.”

“Allah’s the Arabic term for God. Stand up for God, fight for God, work for God and do the right thing, and go the right way, things will end up in your corner.”

“The name Muhammad is the most common name in the world. In all the countries around the world – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon – there are more Muhammads than anything else. When I joined the Nation of Islam and became a Muslim, they gave me the most famous name because I was the champ.”

“My principles are more important than the money or my title.”

“I didn’t want to submit to the army and then, on the Day of Judgment, have God say to me, ‘Why did you do that?’ This life is a trial, and you realize that what you do is going to be written down for Judgment Day.”

“I’m no leader; I’m a little, humble follower.”

“My lectures, based on Islamic teachings, were on various subjects. Some of the titles were, ‘The Intoxication of Life,’ ‘The Purpose of Life,’ ‘The Real Cause of Man’s Distress,’ ‘The Journey to the Goal in Life,’ and, one of my favorites, ‘The Heart of Man.’ They contained important insights that spoke to something deep inside me.”

“Terrorists are not following Islam. Killing people and blowing up people and dropping bombs in places and all this is not the way to spread the word of Islam. So people realize now that all Muslims are not terrorists.”

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Muhammad Ali Facts

  • Are any of Muhammad Ali’s children famous?: Several of his children went on to achieve their own fame. Most notably, Muhammad Ali’s daughter Laila is a famous boxer.
  • Is Muhammad Ali dead?: Yes.
  • When did Muhammad Ali die?: Muhammad Ali died on June 3, 2016.
  • When was Muhammad Ali’s funeral?: He was buried on June 10, 2016.
  • How old is Muhammad Ali?: At the time of Muhammad Ali’s death, he was 74.
  • What did Muhammad Ali die of? Muhammad Ali died of septic shock.

Late Career

Exile

Things were not all good for the heavyweight champion. In 1967, he was drafted into the military but refused to enroll citing his opposition to the Vietnam war. As a result, he was tried and convicted of dodging the draft. He subsequently lost his boxing license, and as a result, all of his many titles.

The ban lasted for three years, during which time he became an increasingly vocal critic of the war. One of the most famous Muhammad Ali quotes reflects his dedication to activism: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

He was able to appeal his conviction and was eventually allowed to resume boxing.

Return to boxing

Muhammad Ali returned to prizefighting in the year 1970 and fought a three-round match against Jerry Quarry, which he won when the other fighter developed a prominent cut over his eye.

The victory itself was modest relative to his already impressive record, but it did make the once and future champion eligible to fight the current heavyweight champ, Joe Frazier.

On March 8, 1971, the two titans of the sport duked it out in Madison Square Gardens in an event that was billed as the “fight of the century. The pre-match taunts produced many Muhammad Ali quotes, including incidents where he would say that Frazier was “too ugly to be the champion”. He would go on to say that the only people rooting for Frazier were the Ku Klux Klan.

The fight went on for eleven rounds and did not fail to rise to crowd expectations. He and Frazier traded many significant blows, but Frazier was ultimately dubbed the victor of this bout by a unanimous decision.

However, he would be vindicated. The two heavyweights would fight two more times, with Muhammad Ali claiming victory in each match.

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Muhammad Ali family and personal life

No Muhammad Ali biography would be complete without a look at his domestic life. Muhammad Ali’s kids were nine in number.

He was married four times. The first of these was to a cocktail waitress named Sonji Roi, whom he is said to have proposed to after their first date. One month later on August 14, 1964, Roi became Muhammad Ali’s spouse in a small private wedding. However, the marriage was short-lived, and the couple split formally two years later after Roi continued to refuse to follow common Islamic practices. 

One year later in 1967, Muhammad married a fellow member of the nation of Islam, Belinda Boyd. Boyd, who later changed her name formally to Khalilah, had four of Muhammad Ali’s kids.

However, the relationship was not without complications. While married to Khalilah, the boxing champion had a prolonged affair with sixteen-year-old Wanda Bolton, whom he would have a child with. He also had an affair with and went on to marry Veronica Porsche, his third wife. They divorced in 1986.

Lonnie Ali, Muhammad Ali’s fourth wife came into his life in 1986. Together, they adopted Muhammad Ali’s son and remained together for the remainder of his life. Muhammad Ali’s wife Lonnie is perhaps his most famous spouse due to the length of their marriage.

Some of Muhammad Ali’s children have found their own fame. Notably, Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum has a career as a writer and musician, and his daughter Laila became a professional boxer.

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Muhammad Ali’s Parkinsons’s/later life

He announced retirement in 1979, but did not disappear from the boxing scene. The Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s diagnosis in 1984 would forever change his life. Despite the diagnosis, he would continue to do great things. 

He famously donated millions of dollars to various Islamic charities. Conservative estimates suggest that his charitable contributions touched the lives of over twenty-two million hungry people worldwide, regardless of their religious backgrounds.

He was also a frequent advocate for refugees and was an avid supporter of Palestinian rights.

Increasing health concerns

Though the former heavyweight struggled with Parkinson’s for the last several decades of his life, the health concerns amplified in 2013. In February of that year, reports began to surface that he was bedridden and unresponsive. Some were even beginning to wonder did Muhammad Ali die after his brother Rhaman told reporters that the famed fighter had just days left. 

Those rumors were subsequently disputed by one of Muhammad Ali’s daughters. However, it is known that he was hospitalized several times that year, including once for pneumonia, and another time for a severe urinary tract infection.

How did Muhammad Ali die?

How did Muhammad Ali die? On June 2, 2016, Muhammad Ali was hospitalized for what reports described as mild respiratory problems. Though he was initially thought to be in stable health, his condition worsened, and Muhammad Ali’s death of septic shock was announced the next day.

Muhammad Ali’s funeral took place one week later in a ceremony that he’d planned himself several years prior. Muhammad Ali’s spouse and children survive him.

Hopefully, in the course of covering everything from the birthplace of boxing’s greatest champion to even answering questions such as “is Muhammad Ali dead?” we’ve addressed everything you need to know. 

However, if you still have more questions about the legendary boxer click here.

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Additional sources for further research

“30 Of Muhammad Ali’s Best Quotes.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 3 June 2016, www.usatoday.com/story/sports/boxing/2016/06/03/muhammad-ali-best-quotes-boxing/85370850/.

Christopher, Paul J., and Alicia Marie. Smith. Greatest Sports Heroes of All Times. Encouragement Press, 2007.

Juma, Norbert. “45 Muhammad Ali Quotes On Life, Love and Being a Champion.” Everyday Power, everydaypower.com/muhammad-ali-quotes/.

Muhammad Ali.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Aug. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Ali.

Sielski, Mike. “Frazier Battled Ali in Timeless Trilogy.” ESPN Classic, ESPN, www.espn.com/classic/biography/s/Frazier_Joe.html.