On June 3rd, the world lost a legend, Muhammad Ali. He was was an American Olympic and professional boxer and activist. He is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century. Muhammad Ali ultimately succumbed to a 32 year long battle with Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological condition. But before the onset of the disease, Ali was known for his cocky attitude and trash talking rhymes. One of his most memorable was “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Ali possessed confidence on steroids. If you look back at videos of post fight interviews, Ali would always tout “I’m the greatest! I’m the greatest!” Now to some, if not most, he appeared to be bragging and full of himself. But even Ali said “it’s not bragging if you can back it up.” And back it up he did, both in and out of the ring.
As cited on www.muhammadali.com, “Muhammad Ali was the Heavyweight Champion of the world in 1967, but he began one of his biggest ‘fights’ when he refused to be inducted into the armed forces to fight in the Vietnam War. Ali was arrested, stripped of his titles, and exiled from boxing for 3 years. He cited religious reasons for not entering the draft, and his opposition was highly controversial. He became a voice for a generation that felt American military involvement in Vietnam was wrong, and his willingness to speak out against it earned him many detractors. Ali never wavered. His conviction was overturned in 1971, and he went on to earn back his World Heavyweight Champion title in 1974.”
Ali’s perspective of himself never wavered throughout his career. There was a method to Ali’s trash talking. By consistently saying he was the greatest, he made everyone else recognize his greatness. He kept saying it so it must have been true, right? It worked. Ali is forever known as the “greatest of all time.” As I wrote this article, I found the perfect quote from the man himself.
“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
He believed he was the greatest, so that’s what he became.