arewell to "The Greatest" Muhummad Ali (1942 - 2016). Muhammad Ali was never shy about declaring his greatness. He was as well known for his many quotes and what some saw as arrogance, as he was for his prowess in the boxing ring.
Ali's birth name was Cassius Marcellus Clay Jnr. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Young Cassius began boxing when he was 12 and it was 10 years later, in 1964 that he won the world heavyweight title in a highly anticipated match which took place in Miami, Florida.
Already, known for his cheeky predictions, he said of his opponent, Sonny Liston, “I’m going to put that ugly bear on the floor, and after the fight I’m gonna build myself a pretty home and use him as a bearskin rug. Liston even smells like a bear. I’m gonna give him to the local zoo after I whip him.”
Shortly after that fight with Liston, Ali joined The Nation of Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. Later he convertered to Sunni Islam.
Ali continued to make headlines out of the boxing ring when, in 1967, he refused to be conscripted into the U.S military. He gave his reasons as religious beliefs and his opposition to America's involvement in the Vietnam was. He was stripped of his world boxing title when found guilty of draft evasion. It was almost four years until he fought again.
After appealing in the U.S supreme court, his conviction was overturned. His determination to stand up for what he felt was right made him an icon for a generation.
Ali went on to win the world heavyweight title in 1974 and again in 1978.
In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's Syndrome, a disease that often follows head trauma.
As his health deteriorated, Ali continued to entertain us, often as a guest on TV. He was one of the most popular flag bearers at the opening of the 2012 Olympic games.
Behind the scenes, Ali found himself a new role as Messenger of Peace for the United Nations.
He was, without doubt, one of the biggest personalities the world of sport has ever seen.
He was inspirational and amusing. The build up to a fight was always pure theatre and the world would be keen to hear his poems and boasts about how he intended to take his opponent down.
Here are a few of the lines he will be remembered for:
- “If Liston even dreamed he could beat me, he’d wake up and apologise”
- “The crowd did not dream when they laid down their money, that they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.”
- “This will be the easiest fight of my life. I’m too fast. He’s old. I’m young. He’s ugly, I’m pretty”
- “I'm gonna Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
- “I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”
- “I’ve wrestled with alligators , I’ve tussled with a whale, I done handcuffed lightning And throw thunder in jail.”
Some of Ali's quotes are just good advice for us all.
- 'Don't count the days; make the days count.'
- “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
- “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”
- “Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
- “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.”
- “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
- “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
- “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
- “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
- “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it—then I can achieve it.”
Rest In Peace, Muhammed Ali.