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Americans Who Tell the Truth

Muhammad Ali

Entertainment and Sport Personalities

Muhammad Ali

Boxer (1942 - 2016)

If I thought going to war would bring freedom and equality to twenty-two million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me. I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up and following my beliefs. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.


Additional Quotes by Muhammad Ali

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

A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light and I'm crowing. 

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

At home I am a nice guy: but I don't want the world to know. Humble people, I've found, don't get very far. 

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

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. 

It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. 

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

Life is a gamble. You can get hurt, but people die in plane crashes, lose their arms and legs in car accidents; people die every day. Same with fighters: some die, some get hurt, some go on. You just don't let yourself believe it will happen to you. 

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. 

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

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. 

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

We have one life; it soon will be past; what we do for God is all that will last. 



The ESPN network, choosing its top athletes of the 20th Century, placed Muhammad Ali #3. The fighter was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. in Louisville. Taught to box at age 12, he won 100 of 108 amateur fights and several national titles. At age 18 he added a gold medal from the 1960 Olympics. Back home in Kentucky, however, when a restaurant refused to serve him because of his race, Clay took the medal from around his neck and threw it in the Ohio River.

Turning professional, the handsome and skillful Clay brought style and verbal wit to boxing, then regarded as a vicious, squalid sport. Both quick and powerful, he could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” In his 20th fight, not given much of a chance, he became the world heavyweight champion. A surprised nation was further shocked the next morning when Clay announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam and taken a Muslim name, Muhammad Ali.

By March 1967, his record stood at 29-0. One month later he refused to step forward for induction into the army during the Vietnam War, claiming conscientious objector status. “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” he said, adding, “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.” Condemned as unpatriotic and cowardly, Ali was stripped of his title and his boxing license. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. Released on appeal, he waited three years for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the verdict.

Despite this long inactive period, after 18 years Ali had a professional record of 55-2. Now revered instead of hated, he had become the first boxer to win the heavyweight championship three times (1964-67, 1974-78 and 1978-79). But he stayed too long in the ring and lost three of his last four fights before retiring in 1981. Shortly after that, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Two decades later, Ali has been slowed by the disease but not defeated. Three decades after America reviled him for his religious and political beliefs, he was asked to light the Olympic Torch at the opening of the 1996 Atlanta games. In October 2003 the editor of Esquire magazine wrote that “he, like only a very few Americans, has existed for nearly his entire life at that rare nexus of celebrity, accomplishment, and infamy that makes one an American icon.”



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