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Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Trash Talking Moments

Ian Harvey
Getty Images
Getty Images

Muhammed Ali, born Cassius Clay, is one of the best-known boxers in the history of the sport.

He was an Olympic gold medalist in 1960. Four years after that he became heavyweight champion of the world for the first time and took that title again twice more during the ‘70s.

Over the course of his career, he had 56 wins, 5 losses, and 37 knockouts, finally retiring from boxing in 1981.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years later. After he retired, he did a lot of philanthropy and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. Ali died June, 2016.

Muhammad Ali in 1966. Photo by Dutch National Archives CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Muhammad Ali in 1966. Photo by Dutch National Archives CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Along with his notable achievements in and out of the boxing ring, he also had another notable gift — talking trash. During his life he uttered a number of quotable remarks, some of which have become deeply embedded in our culture. Here is a sampling of some of the best, courtesy of ABC News:

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. George can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. He thinks he will, but I know he won’t. They tell me George is good, but I’m twice as nice. And I’m gonna stick to his butt like white on rice.”

Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, (second from right) at the 1960 Olympics.

Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, (second from right) at the 1960 Olympics.

Ali said this just before his 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman. The fight was held in Kinshasa, Zaire, on October 30.

In front of 60,000 spectators, Ali knocked Foreman out in the eighth round. Ali won the fight, but this battle call to his opponent may have a larger role in increasing his fame.

“I have wrestled with an alligator, I done tasseled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, threw thunder in jail. That’s bad. Only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so bad, I make medicine sick.”

1960 Olympians: Ali won gold against Zbigniew Pietrzykowski (1956 and 1964 bronze medalist).

1960 Olympians: Ali won gold against Zbigniew Pietrzykowski (1956 and 1964 bronze medalist).

Any man can brag, but few can do it in rhyme, and even fewer can back it up.

“If you like to lose your money, then be a fool and bet on Sonny, but if you wanna have a good day, then put it on Clay.”

A pair of Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History. Photo by Mark Pellegrini CC BY-SA 2.5

A pair of Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History. Photo by Mark Pellegrini CC BY-SA 2.5

“Ain’t Liston ugly? He’s too ugly to be the world champ. The world champ should be pretty, like me.”

“I predict that Liston will go at eight to prove that I am great. If he wanna go to heaven, I’ll get him in seven. He’ll be in a worse fix if I cut it six. And if he keeps talkin’ jive, I’ll cut it to five.”

President Reagan “punching” Muhammad Ali in the oval office, 1983.

President Reagan “punching” Muhammad Ali in the oval office, 1983.

Ali fought Sonny Liston twice in heavyweight title fights. According to Boxing News, many fans and professionals believe that at least the second fight, and very possibly the first as well, were fixed.

Liston was generally considered to be unbeatable, yet he quit in the first bout, and the second time they fought he went down from a punch that many didn’t see. Of those who did see it, there is a general consensus that it shouldn’t have had enough power to take him down.

Bust photographic portrait of Muhammad Ali in 1967. World Journal Tribune photo by Ira Rosenberg.

Bust photographic portrait of Muhammad Ali in 1967. World Journal Tribune photo by Ira Rosenberg.

Liston himself expressed a great deal of surprise after the first fight about Ali’s power and skill, so it could simply be that he wasn’t expecting to have to work hard for a win.

“Whatever truculent means — if that’s good, I’m that.”

Ali in 1974.

Ali in 1974.

After being called “truculent” by Howard Cosell, this was Ali’s response. The boxer and the sports announcer had an unusual relationship, according to the New York Daily News.

Both men had had their share of nay-sayers among the public and the media, for various reasons, but they were also allies. Cosell’s Wide World of Sports gave Ali a platform to give his side of the story.

Ali gave Cosell a platform for being a journalist, and not just an announcer.

“Joe’s gonna come out smokin’ but I ain’t gonna be jokin’. I’ll be peckin’ and a pokin’, pourin’ water on his smokin’. And this might shock and amaze ya, but I will destroy Joe Frazier.”

Joe Frazier in June 2010. Photo by Arvee Eco CC BY-SA 2.0

Joe Frazier in June 2010. Photo by Arvee Eco CC BY-SA 2.0

Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier fought three times between 1971 and 1975. Newsday described the fights as “a brutal trilogy,” saying that it began as an embodiment of the culture war taking place in America at the time, and ended up defining the essence of the sport.

Frazier won the first of the three fights between them, on March 8, 1971, and it was the first loss in Ali’s career.

By the time they had the second fight, in 1974, neither was currently a champion any longer, but Ali beat Frazier in a unanimous decision. That second fight was really a stepping stone to the Rumble in the Jungle, where Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title.

The final fight between the two titanic boxers was the “Thrilla in Manila,” a truly brutal bout that Ali eventually won. He later said it was the closest he had ever come to death.

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No matter the fight or the circumstances, Muhammed Ali always maintained his cocky attitude and quick mouth, and that was part of why America loved him, and why he will forever be an icon.