Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay jr on January 17 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. At the age of 12, after his bicycle was stolen, Ali began boxing and he vowed to policeman Joe Martin that he would “whup” the person who had taken it.
As a mouthy and unapologetic black man Ali earned the nickname the “Louisville Lip” and he would go on to recite poetry and trash talk for the rest of his boxing career. Here are some of his (in)famous utterances.
On his job: “It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”
On courage: “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.”
On how to make the most of your life:
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, rumble young man rumble
On February 27 1964, Cassius Clay announced that he was a member of the Nation of Islam. Ali’s rejection of his birth name, which he insisted was his slave name, and his affiliation with the Nation of Islam made white Americans livid, but it was his refusal to be inducted into the Army that incensed them the most.
On refusing military induction:
On being humble: “Braggin’ is when a person says something and can’t do it. I do what I say.”
On being prepared: “How tall are you? So I can know in advance how far to step back when you fall down!”
— Muhammad Ali (@MuhammadAli) April 6, 2016
The Rope-a-Dope a boxing strategy he devised to beat George Foreman in eight rounds in then Zaire in 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle”: