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The world is waking up this morning to the devastating news that Muhammad Ali, not just the greatest boxer of all time, but the greatest sportman, has passed away at the age of 74, following a 32 year battle with Parkinson's disease.
A three time Heavyweight Champion of the world, Ali was not simply just a great boxer. He transcended the sport in a way no one else ever has or ever will, again. 'The Louisville Lip' shook up the world by doing much more than knocking out Sonny Liston in Miami, in 1964. He did so by protesting the Vietnam war (a decision that cost him four years of his career), by becoming a beacon of the Civil Rights movement, befriending Malcolm X in 1962 (although their friendship would end shortly after X left the Nation of Islam, a couple of years later), marching with the Black Panthers through the streets of New York in 1970 and by providing more than a lifetime's worth of memorable quotes and soundbites through various rivalries with other boxing greats such as Joe Frazier and George Foreman and his interactions with notable icons of the time such as Elvis, The Beatles, the Jackson Five, Sam Cooke and Stevie Wonder.
It is said quotes that helped turned the younger generation onto Ali. The charisma with which they were delivered worlds apart from the tasteless, classless, volatile way in which modern boxers deliver their own brand of trash talking. Ali just didn't speak for himself, he spoke for entire generations of African Americans.
Here's just a small selection of the Greatest's greatest quotes:
I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and got into bed before the room was dark.
Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn't choose it and I don't want it. I am Muhammed Ali, a free name - it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me and of me
When will they ever have another fighter who writes poems, predicts rounds, beats everybody, makes people laugh, makes people cry, and is as tall and extra pretty as me? In the history of the world and from the beginning of time, there's never been another fighter like me. Eat your words! Eat your words! I am the greatest.
"I am America. I am the part you won't recognise. 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 just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up."
"I'm young; I'm handsome; I'm fast. I can't possibly be beat."
"Don't count the days; make the days count."
"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."
"I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just jet pilots. I'm in a world of my own."
"Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong."
"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 while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?"
"God's got me here for something. I can feel it. I was born for everything that I'm doing now."
"It will be a killer, and a chiller, and a thriller, when I get the gorilla in Manila."
"Joe Frazier is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head."
"I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick."
Rest In Peace, champ.