In His Own Words

Muhammad Ali was known for his quick wit and quips, read some of his greatest in and out of the ring.

Muhammad Ali snarls at a reporter while surrounded by men.
Howard Bingham
Black and white photo of Muhammad Ali as a young man sitting in a convertible and dramatically pointing while surrounded by a crowd of people around the car
Howard Bingham


“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”

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

“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”

 “I’ve wrestled with alligators,  I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning and thrown thunder in jail.  You know I’m bad. Just last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick!”

“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.”

“It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”

“I’m the greatest, I’m a bad man, and I’m pretty!”.

Muhammad Ali holds up a newspaper reading "Justice on Trial!"
Howard Bingham


“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

“You lose nothing when you fight for a cause… In my mind the losers are those who don’t have a cause they care about.”

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

“I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”

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

A man runs beside a fence on a long road
Howard Bingham


“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.”

“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 the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

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

“Inside or 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.”

A boxer leans out of the ring to hand a pin to a child in a wheelchair
Howard Bingham


“I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.”

“I try not to speak about all the charities and people I help, because I believe we can only be truly generous when we expect nothing in return.”

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

“I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way, but if I have changed even one life for the better, I haven’t lived in vain.”

“I wanted to use my fame and this face that everyone knows so well to help uplift and inspire people around the world.”

“To be able to give away riches is mandatory if you wish to possess them. This is the only way that you will be truly rich.”

Muhammad Ali and Sam Cooke share a laugh
Howard Bingham


“Silence is golden when you can’t think of an answer.”

“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”

“Throughout my life, I never sought retribution against those who hurt me because I believe in forgiveness. I have practiced forgiving, just as I want to be forgiven.”

“ Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”

Black and white photo of Muhammad Ali with family and guests kneeling and praying on a lawn
Howard Bingham


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

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

“Allah is the Greatest. I’m just the greatest boxer.”

“I’m no leader; I’m a little humble follower.”

“The only thing that matters is submitting to the will of God.”

The Man
Behind The Quotes

Learn more about Muhammad Ali and his legacy.

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