People ask and argue that Ali wasn’t the greatest boxer that ever lived. But he simply was. He was simply the greatest boxer I had watched because of his aura in the ring, his boxing skills, his determination to speak up for a cause (in the case of Vietnam war), his personal sacrifice (he gave up his earnings and glory to stand up for what he believed in), his oratory skills (he is yet to be matched by any sports person on earth) and most importantly his service to others. It was Muhammad Ali that said, ” Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”. What wisdom! How I wish Nigerian leaders can read and imbibe this wisdom. Rest well Ali, the greatest boxer that ever lived. – Jide Salu
Muhammad Ali has died at the age of 74, a family spokesman has said.
The former world heavyweight boxing champion, one of the world’s best-known sportsmen, died at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix, Arizona, after being admitted on Thursday.
He was suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
The funeral will take place in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, his family said in a statement.
Ali’s sharpest verbal jabs and most withering putdowns
Before first Sonny Liston fight, 1964
“…now Clay swings with a right, what a beautiful swing
And raises the bear straight out of the ring;
Liston is rising and the ref wears a frown
For he can’t start counting ‘til Liston comes down;
Now Liston disappears from view, the crowd is getting frantic
But our radar stations have picked him up somewhere over the Atlantic;
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.”
“Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me and of me.”
During second Liston fight, 1965
“Get up sucker and fight. Get up and fight.”
During Ernie Terrell fight, 1967 (Terrell had refused to recognise his name change)
“What’s my name, fool? What’s my name?”
On refusing induction into the US armed services in 1967 during the Vietnam war
“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”
Before George Foreman fight, 1974
“I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and got into 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.”
“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.”
During Foreman fight, 1974
“That all you got, George? That all you got?”
Before third Joe Frazier fight, 1975
“It will be a killer and a chiller and a thriller when I get the gorilla in Manila.”
Rumble in the Jungle: the war of words
The pre-fight quotes and allusions to all-time greatness in its aftermath have become almost as well known a part of the famous 1974 fight with George Foreman as the eight rounds themselves. Here are some of the most memorable utterances from those present:
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee – his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see” – Ali in the pre-fight build-up.
“I done something new for this fight. I wrestled with an alligator. I tussled with a whale. I handcuffed lightning, I 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” – Ali in the pre-fight build-up.
“I won’t kid you. When he went to the ropes, I felt sick. Going into the fight, I thought Muhammad would win, but not that way” – trainer Angelo Dundee.
“Ali, booma ye” – chant from spectators (meaning “Ali, kill him”).
“That all you got, George? That all you got?” – Ali to Foreman during the fight.
“He (Foreman) went over like a six-foot 60-year-old butler who has just heard tragic news” – Norman Mailer, ‘The Fight’.
“This is the most joyous scene … ever seen in the history of boxing” – commentator David Frost.
“Muhammad amazed me, I’ll admit it. He out-thought me, he outfought me. That night, he was just the better man in the ring” – Foreman.
“Now we know what happened which is why he was the greatest. It was beautiful” – Dundee.
How Ali wanted people to remember him
“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him…who stood up for his beliefs…who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.
“And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”