50 Greatest Muhammad Ali Quotes About Standing Up For What's Right

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Find greatness in the midst of adversity with the best quotes by Muhammad Ali.

The late Muhammad Ali is a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion and Olympic gold medalist. He is regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time, and the collection of the best Muhammad Ali quotes below prove just how much of an impact he made on the world.

Ali was most notably known for "floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee" in the boxing ring, originally taking up the sport at just 12 years-old.

Ali’s birth name was actually Cassius Clay Jr., but once he converted to Islam, he chose to be referred to as Muhammad Ali, refusing to go by his birth name because he believed it was his “slave name”. According an article published in The Washington Post in 2018, Ali was "the great-great-great grandson of Archer Alexander," - a slave who escaped from and fed information to the Union Army during the Civil War, eventually becoming the model for the Emancipation Memorial, in Lincoln Park.

Even still, Muhammad Ali was a free man and did not want to carry a name that had nothing to do with his black roots or new faith. He wanted a name to reflect his newfound freedom.

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Ali was not just an athlete, he was a philanthropist. In 2005 Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Former U.S. President George Bush, who called him "a man of peace."

He supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, and other non-profit organizations. Ali traveled to places like Mexico and Morocco to help the less fortunate.

In addition to his philanthropy, Ali was passionate about ending discrimination the black and Muslim community faced. Growing up in the South, Muhammad Ali had to overcome a great deal of racism and oppression.

Being a minority did not stop Ali from exercising his right to practice his religion. Ali refused to serve in the Vietnam War because of his religion and was arrested, wasn’t allowed to box, and was stripped of his title because he was “convicted of draft evasion”. Not to be discouraged, Ali from appealed this decision, and three years later the New York Supreme Court overturned the conviction and allowed him to box again.

Through all the hardships during his lifetime, Ali’s confidence did not waver. He did not let the oppression and discrimination keep him from accomplishing his goals of being one of the best athletes in the world. In the journey of success, Ali never forgot to be a helping hand, to help others just like him.

Check out our collection of the best Muhammad Ali quotes to inspire and motivate you to keep pushing for greatness, no matter what you're going through.

1. Recognize your abilities.

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see. Now you see me, now you don't.”

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2. It’s your duty to serve the community.

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

3. Make the days count.

"Don’t count the days; make the days count."

4. Imagination gives you wings.

"A man who has no imagination has no wings."

5. Don’t fear taking risks.

“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.”

6. Courage is needed to accomplish things.

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

7. Goals keep you motivated.

“What keeps me going is goals.”

8. If you believe, things will begin to happen.

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

9. Give what you want to receive.

“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.”

10. Black people aren’t free unless they’re all free from racial oppression.

“I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catchin' hell, but as long as they ain't free, I ain't free.”

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11. Love makes the world a better place.

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

12. Everything doesn’t require a response.

“Silence is golden when you can't think of a good answer.”

13. Don’t be a sore loser.

“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.”

14. Explore your power to change the world.

“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.”

15. If you think and believe it, you can do it.

“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it—then I can achieve it."

16. Hating based on their color is never ok.

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

17. You determine your age.

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

18. As you age your perspective should change.

"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

19. You can make something out of anything.

“If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.”

20. Don’t give up when times get tough.

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

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21. Speak who you want to be into existence.

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

22. Winners understand how to overcome defeat.

"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."

23. Confidence and bragging are not the same.

“Braggin' is when a person says something and can’t do it. I do what I say.”

24. Impossible says I’m possible.

“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.”

25. Work hard and believe.

“I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others.”

26. Principles outweigh status.

“My principles are more important than the money or my title.”

27. Try to impact at least one life during your lifetime.

“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.”

28. Life doesn’t last forever.

“Life is so, so short. Bible says it's like a vapor.”

29. Be who you want to be.

“I don't have to be what you want me to be.”

30. What determines where you succeed or fail is the work you do behind the scenes.

“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.”

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31. Don't allow a lack of faith to keep you from achieving.

“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”

32. Champions have a will that is stronger than skill.

“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 last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

33. Believe that you are the best.

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

34. You become what you think.

“What you are thinking is what you are becoming."

35. Live every day like it's your last.

“Live every day as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”

36. You are not your job or career.

"It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up."

37. Embrace your physical features.

“Look at me. Look at my nose, perfect shape; lips, face. Now I’m not boasting, but it’s hard to be humble when you’re as pretty as I am.”

38. Friendship is a valuable gift.

“Friendship is a priceless gift that cannot be bought nor sold, but its value is far greater than a mountain made of gold.”

39. You will not always be wise.

“Wisdom is knowing when you can’t be wise.”

40. Fight against injustice.

“All I can do is fight for truth and justice."

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41. Inspire and uplift others.

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

42. You are self-made.

“When you want to talk about who made me, you talk to me. Who made me is me.”

43. Submit to God's will.

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

44. Spread positivity.

"I’d like for them to say he took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience, teaspoon of generosity, one pint of kindness. He took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern, and then, he mix willingness with happiness, he added lots of faith, and he stirred it up well, then he spreads it over his span of a lifetime, and he served it to each and every deserving person he met."

45. Fight for change.

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

46. It's too late to ask for advice once the time to perform as began.

“My trainer don’t tell me nothing between rounds. I don’t allow him to. I fight the fight. All I want to know is did I win the round. It’s too late for advice.”

47. Don't fail to realize your greatness.

“My only fault is that I don’t realize how great I really am.”

48. Find the little thing within you that is holding you back from achieving your dreams.

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

49. Be confident in your determination and abilities.

“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”

50. Get back up when you fail.

“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”

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Tamara Sanon is a writer who covers astrology, spirituality, love and relationship topics.

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