"The Greatest" has turned 74.

To celebrate the birthday of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, CBC Sports takes a look at some of the most intriguing moments of his career.

Ali contested in 61 professional bouts and some of his most memorable (in no particular order) are listed below:


The Rumble in the Jungle

Oct. 29, 1974


The Thrilla in Manila

Oct. 2, 1975


Ali vs. Liston I

Feb. 25, 1964


Fight of the Century

Mar. 8, 1971


Ali vs. Chuvalo

​Mar. 29, 1966


Ali was also known for more than just his punches – he was also quick with his verbal jabs. Here are a few of his most memorable quotes:

'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can't hit what his eyes can't see'

His most famous saying. Ali used variations of the first half of this quote to describe his fighting style. The second half was used in mockery of George Foreman before their 1974 fight. 

'I am the greatest!'

"I knew I had him in the first round. Almighty God was with me. I want everyone to bear witness, I am the greatest! I'm the greatest thing that ever lived. I don't have a mark on my face, and I upset Sonny Liston, and I just turned 22 years old. I must be the greatest. I showed the world. I talk to God everyday. I know the real God. I shook up the world, I'm the king of the world. You must listen to me. I am the greatest! I can't be beat!"

Ali spoke those words after knocking out Liston in 1964. Few people expected him to win. Ali went on to knock out Liston a second time a year later in 1965. He was known as being one of the most cocky athletes of his time:

  • "I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark."
  • "I am America. I am the part you won't recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky - my name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me."

'Just take me to jail'

Ali, on the grounds of his religion, refused to serve in the Vietnam War when drafted. He was found guilty of draft evasion and stripped of his world heavyweight title. He would not fight for nearly four years.

"My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me n--ger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail."