Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.

American World Heavy Weight Boxing Champion, Pacifist, Philanthropist and Social Activist

"Facts are only the shadows of truth."

"God... created man; He has also created the circumstances under which he lives and acts; but still He has endowed man with discretion to choose how to act... And as he can exercise his discretion or his will in doing a thing or not doing it, he is responsible for his own deeds, and made to suffer the consequences."

"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 believe in myself."

"Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything."

"What you are thinking about, you are becoming."

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."

"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 will."

"The man without imagination has no wings, he cannot fly."

"If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it - then I can achieve it."

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."

"Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you're going to be right."

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion'."

"Inside of a ring or out, ain't nothing wrong with going down. It's staying down that's wrong."

"Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even."

"To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are."

"Don't count the days, make the days count."

"The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up."

"You lose nothing when fighting for a cause ... In my mind the losers are those who don't have a cause they care about."

"Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are."

"The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."

"I am the greatest."

"Others may know pleasure, but pleasure is not happiness. It has no more importance than a shadow following a man."

"I'm the greatest, I'm a bad man, and I'm pretty!"

"Often it isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the little pebble in your shoe."

"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."

"I never thought of losing, but now that it's happened, the only thing is to do it right. That's my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life. "

"What keeps me going is goals."

"The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights."

"This is the legend of Cassius Clay, The most beautiful fighter in the world today. He talks a great deal, and brags indeed-y, of a muscular punch that's incredibly speed-y. The fistic world was dull and weary, But with a champ like Liston, things had to be dreary. Then someone with color and someone with dash, Brought fight fans are runnin' with Cash. This brash young boxer is something to see And the heavyweight championship is his des-tin-y. This kid fights great; he’s got speed and endurance, But if you sign to fight him, increase your insurance. This kid's got a left; this kid's got a right, If he hit you once, you're asleep for the night. And as you lie on the floor while the ref counts ten, You’ll pray that you won’t have to fight me again. For I am the man this poem’s about, The next champ of the world, there isn’t a doubt. This I predict and I know the score, I’ll be champ of the world in ’64. When I say three, they’ll go in the third, 10 months ago So don’t bet against me, I’m a man of my word. He is the greatest! Yes! I am the man this poem’s about, I’ll be champ of the world, there isn’t a doubt. Here I predict Mr. Liston’s dismemberment, I’ll hit him so hard; he’ll wonder where October and November went. When I say two, there’s never a third, Standin against me is completely absurd. When Cassius says a mouse can outrun a horse, Don’t ask how; put your money where your mouse is! I AM THE GREATEST!"

"Go to College, Stay in school, If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, they can sure make something out of you."

"Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change."

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can't hit what the eyes can't see.”"

"It's not bragging if you can back it up."

"Wisdom is knowing when you can't be wise."

"Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams — they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do — they all contain truths."

"It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen."

"Prejudice comes from being in the dark; sunlight disinfects it."

"Old age is just a record of one's whole life."

"Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years."

"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."

"David Frost: What would you like people to think about you when you've gone? Muhammad Ali: I'd like for them to say: He took a few cups of love. He took one tablespoon of patience, One teaspoon of generosity, One pint of kindness. He took one quart of laughter, One pinch of concern. And then, he mixed willingness with happiness. He added lots of faith, And he stirred it up well. Then he spread it over a span of a lifetime, And he served it to each and every deserving person he met."

"Over the years my religion has changed and my spirituality has evolved. Religion and spirituality are very different, but people often confuse the two. Some things cannot be taught, but they can be awakened in the heart. Spirituality is recognizing the divine light that is within us all. It doesn't belong to any particular religion; it belongs to everyone."

"My soul has grown over the years, and some of my views have changed. As long as I am alive, I will continue to try to understand more because the work of the heart is never done. All through my life I have been tested. My will has been tested, my courage has been tested, my strength has been tested. Now my patience and endurance are being tested. Every step of the way I believe that God has been with me. And, more than ever, I know that he is with me now. I have learned to live my life one step, one breath, and one moment at a time, but it was a long road. I set out on a journey of love, seeking truth, peace and understanding. l am still learning."

"Wouldn't it be a beautiful world if just 10 percent of the people who believe in the power of love would compete with one another to see who could do the most good for the most people?"

"We all have the same God, we just serve him differently. Rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, oceans all have different names, but they all contain water. So do religions have different names, and they all contain truth, expressed in different ways forms and times. It doesn't matter whether you're a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew. When you believe in God, you should believe that all people are part of one family. If you love God, you can't love only some of his children."

"If we continue to think and live as if we belong only to different cultures and different religions, with separate missions and goals, we will always be in self-defeating competition with each other. Once we realize we are all members of humanity, we will want to compete in the spirit of love."

"I always bring out the best in men I fight, but Joe Frazier, I'll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I'm gonna tell ya, that's one helluva man, and God bless him."

"The Soul of a Butterfly : Reflections on Life's Journey (title of his book)"

"A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life."