Muhammad Ali's greatest quotes reveal brilliant character

World-famous boxing champion Muhammad Ali wasn't just some loud-mouthed, trash-talking boxer — he was the greatest of all time.

The 'Louisville lip' is gone but his famous words will live on

Former boxing champion Muhammad Ali, seen here in 1974, died Friday at the age of 74. He had Parkinson's disease since 1984. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Muhammad Ali wasn't just some loud-mouthed, trash-talking boxer — he was the greatest of all time. 

His ambitions transcended generations and sparked new hopes aflame from the streets of Kinshasa to his hometown of Louisville, Ky. 

Ali died Friday at the age of 74. He had Parkinson's disease for more than 30 years. The debilitating illness made it difficult for him to do what arguably made him most famous — speak.

In his younger days, it was nearly impossible to get Ali to ever stop speaking. He roared on about how he was the greatest, he bragged about his good looks and he declared nothing is impossible. 

To list all of Ali's most memorable quotes would take ages, but we narrowed the list down to 10 to honour his passing.

In no particular order, here are some great quotes by the greatest:

Perhaps his most infamous, Ali's "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" saying stuck with him. Members of his team wore the words on their shirts. The quote is about Ali's movement in the boxing ring, which he took immense pride in.

Ali constantly referred to himself as "the greatest." With a 31-0 record through 1970, it was easy to see why. Ali became the world heavyweight champion at the tender age of 22, when he defeated Sonny Liston on Feb. 25, 1964.

Not only was Ali confident, he was masterfully witty. He once cracked that he was so fast, he turned off a light switch in his hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark. 

Ali loved to make predictions before his fights. Known as the "Louisville lip," Ali boasted about his abilities and explained why men such as Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman didn't stand a chance against him. 

Ali showed he had skills outside the ring when he revealed his ability to convert words into poetry. His delivery was flawless and his facial expressions only magnified his point. Not everyone liked his bold persona, but those who did came to adore the champion. 

Born Cassius Clay in 1942, Ali took many risks during his life. He converted to Islam and changed his name. He fought the toughest fighters of his generation. But it was one battle he had in the prime of his life that defined his legacy.

In 1967, Ali took a stand against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and refused to take part. He stood up for his beliefs and deemed his participation unjust, even if that came with the risk of winding up in prison. He refused to step forward when his name was called for service. The decision led to Ali being banned from boxing for three years when he was 25 years old.

Ali was willing to risk it all for what he believed in. It was his willingness to stand out from the crowd that separated him from the rest. 

The champion was popular both in the ring and outside it. Ali's conversations with journalist Howard Cosell were built on mutual respect but no punches were ever pulled. Fans never knew what Ali was going to say or do, and that was part of his intrigue.

While sports fans may move on and idolize new faces as the years go by, the legend of Ali will live on. He was a man who fought for what he believed in and never seemed to take the easy path toward greatness. 

Ali talked the talk because he could walk the walk. He was 29-0 before his suspension from boxing and had some of the most memorable fights in sports history following his return. From the Fight of the Century to the Rumble in the Jungle to the Thrilla in Manila, Ali was embraced worldwide as the people's champion. 

Ali's true impact cannot be compared in terms of athletics because he was more than just an athlete.

He stood as a symbol of bravery, courage and freedom whose life will never be forgotten. 

Muhammad Ali: The making of a legend

6 years ago
Duration 5:16
'I would argue there will never be anybody else like Muhammad Ali. He was that great and affected so many people around the world,' says CBC's Scott Russell


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