Muhammad Ali enlivened many of his news conferences and training sessions with poems. They caused many people to laugh, some to cringe.
Ali could be Robert Frost in a robe, or Maya Angelou with a championship belt, though his sometimes simplistic stanzas often leaned more towards something out of a Dr Seuss book. He was a true beat poet - in as much as he loved having a rhyme to have a reason to thump his latest rival.
These helped make Ali one of the poet laureates of boxing.
In 1962, when Ali was still Cassius Clay
“Everyone knew when I stepped in town,
I was the greatest fighter around.
A lot of people called me a clown,
But I am the one who called the round.
The people came to see a great fight,
But all I did was put out the light.
Never put your money against Cassius Clay,
For you will never have a lucky day."
Before his upset title victory over Sonny Liston in February 1964.
“Now Clay swings with a right, what a beautiful swing.
And the punch raises the Bear clear out of the ring.
Liston is still rising, and the ref wears a frown.
For he can't start counting 'til 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"
Before losing to Joe Frazier in their first fight, March 1971.
“Joe's gonna come out smokin',
But I ain't gonna be jokin'.
This might shock and amaze ya,
But I'm going to destroy Joe Frazier"
Before regaining the title by upsetting George Foreman in October 1974.
"You think the world was shocked when Nixon resigned?
Wait 'til I whup George Foreman's behind.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
His hand 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 wrassled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale.
Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick.
I'm so mean, I make medicine sick"
To Larry Holmes before his loss in October 1980.
"I got speed and endurance.
You'd better increase your insurance"
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies