Muhammad Ali - who was referred to by some as the Louisville Lip - had a way with words that few sports personalities have come close to rivaling. His verbal jabs were the sharpest of all, yet he was a man of humility and peace. Journalists over the decades have faced an uphill battle trying to out-word the boxer, given that he usually did a far better job of describing himself or his opponents than they could. One who fought and stood for his beliefs even at the angry face of opposition. On June 4th, the Black Hero embarked on an eternal stroll to oblivion, from mortality to immortality.
Yes, he too was a poet, whose one poem inspired me at a poet. This post is Prose & Poetry Hood special dedication to the Boxer-Poet Mohammad Ali. Selecting the best quotes from the millions of words Ali uttered at jet speed during his career was quite a challenge, but here are some of the best known, along with a few that are less well remembered too.
ESPN columnist Ralph Wiley called Ali "The King of Trash Talk". In 2013, The Guardian said Ali exemplified boxing's "golden age of trash talking". The Bleacher Report called Clay's description of Sonny Liston smelling like a bear and his vow to donate him to a zoo after he beat him the greatest trash talk line in sports history. source: WIKIPEDIA
Full of Pride...
"I’m not the greatest. I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round. I’m the boldest, the prettiest, the most superior, most scientific, most skill-fullest fighter in the ring today."
"It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am."
"There are no pleasures in a fight, but some of my fights have been a pleasure to win."
Mohammad Ali the Boxer-Poet.
"He even penned a poem before taking on Sonny Liston in 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."
"When I’m gone, boxing will be nothing again. The fans with the cigars and the hats turned down’ll be there, but no more housewives and little men in the street and foreign presidents. It’s goin’ to be back to the fighter who comes to town, smells a flower, visits a hospital, blows a horn and says he’s in shape. Old hat. I was the onliest boxer in history people asked questions like a senator."
The Rumble in the Jungle, 1974
"Float like a butterfly sting like a bee – his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see."
Boastful & Famous Jabs:
"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."
"Champions aren’t made in the 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."
"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."
Self-acclaimed Thrilla in Manilla, 1975
"I saw your wife. You’re not as dumb as you look."
Better remembered for this rhythmic line:
"It will be a killer and a chiller and a thriller, when I get the gorilla in Manila."
Ali also strayed into the political arena after refusing to serve in the US army during the Vietnam war. His travails was that of belief, race and personal opinion. The Black Hero wouldn't bulge, bed nor bow to the demands, though lawful, of his nation because his belief were against it. What was his explanation?
"I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong”
Of the US government’s attempts to jail him for draft-dodging, he said:
"They did what they thought was right, and I did what I thought was right."
And after being convicted of draft-dodging in 1970, in one of his most famous lines, he said, poetically:
"I am America.
I am the part you won’t recognise.
But get used to me.
confident, cocky, my name not yours.
My religion, not yours;
my goals, my own; get used to me."
Many of his comments referred explicitly to race and the treatment of the black race in the United States of America. Mohammad Ali had these, and more, to say:
"I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin’ hell, but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free."
"Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up."
"I may not talk perfect white talk-type English, but I give you wisdom."
On His Change Of Name in 1964
After his conversion to Islam, on his affiliation with the Nation of Islam (NOI), Mohammad Ali's change of name triggered a public debate, and the mouthy boxer had a ready reply:
"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."
Later in Life
Mohammad Ali maintained his sharp tongue despite the physical and health toll that boxing had taken on his body. His mental self stayed strong.
"People say I talk so slow today. That’s no surprise. I calculated I’ve taken 29,000 punches. But I earned $57m and I saved half of it. So I took a few hard knocks. Do you know how many black men are killed every year by guns and knives without a penny to their names? I may talk slow, but my mind is OK."
"What I suffered physically was worth what I’ve accomplished in life. A man who is not courageous enough to take risks will never accomplish anything in life."
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."
Mohammad Ali's Last Words
He didn't leave mortality without a few more words to add to his millions of quotes. The dying hero had a thing or two to say to whoever cared to listen - the world did listen, anyway.
"I’m not afraid of dying. I have faith; I do everything I can to live my life right; and I believe that dying will bring me closer to God."
"Live every day like it’s your last, because someday you’re going to be right."
Today, we at Prose & Poetry Hood mourn with the Ali family, fans and friends world over. He left behind a bunch of good legacy. He raised the hopes of the black race in his own special way. He stood his grounds in the ring of fighting bouts and also in the ring of life, belief and race.
An Eulogy For Mohammad Ali - by Stefn Sylvester Anyatonwu
He remained unshaken by the storms of criticisms
and the whirlwind hate.
He stayed buoyant,
even on a raging sea.
Like every other man,
he had his faults, flaws and fails,
yet perfect in his imperfections.
His memory lives on despite his demise-
Louisville shall miss him
whose lips was her pride.
Whose knocks brought her smiles.
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