Muhammad Ali's top quotes

"They did what they thought was right, and I did what I thought was right."

A smiling Muhammad Ali shows his fist to reporters during an impromptu news conference in Mexico City in this July 9, 1987 file photo.   -  REUTERS

Muhammad Ali's penchant for poetry and his readiness with a pithy quote delighted some and made others squirm. Here is some of the wit and wisdom of the late boxing icon:

Butterflies and bees

"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Ohhhh. Rumble, young man, rumble." - Ali's signature verse, "Float like a butterfly ..." was actually coined by one of his assistant trainers, Drew "Bundini" Brown.

I am the greatest

Now Clay swings with a right, what a beautiful swing

And the punch raises the Bear clear of the ring.

Liston is still rising, and the ref wears a frown

For he can't start counting till Sonny comes down.

Now Liston disappears from view

The crowd is getting frantic

But our radar stations have picked him up

He's somewhere over the Atlantic.

Who would have thought when they came to the fight

That they'd witness the launching of a human satellite.

Yes, the crowd did not dream when they lay down their money

That they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.

I am the greatest.

- part of a poem before upset title victory over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964

Thoughts on Vietnam

"I got no quarrel with them Vietcong." - on February 17, 1966

"In the ring we have a referee to stop the fight if one man should become too hurt physically. Boxing is nothing like going to war with machine guns, bazookas, hand grenades and bomber airplanes." - Ali at an anti-war demonstration in Chicago, 1967.

Right and wrong

"They did what they thought was right, and I did what I thought was right." - on the government's effort to send him to prison

It's a thrilla

"It will be a killa and thrilla and a chilla when I get the Gorilla in Manila." - before his victory over Frazier in the "Thrilla in Manila" on October 1, 1975

"You're not as dumb as you look. I saw your wife." - to then Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos before the "Thrilla in Manila."

Beating Foreman

You think the world was shocked when Nixon resigned? Wait till I whup George Foreman's behind.

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, George thinks he will, but I know he won't.

I done rassled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale.

Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone and hospitalized a brick.

I'm so mean I make medicine sick.

- before regaining the title with a victory over Foreman on October 30, 1974.

Just a man

"He (God) gave me Parkinson's syndrome to show me I'm just a man like everyone else. To show me I've got human frailties like everybody else does. That's all I am: a man." - in a 1987 interview.

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