Muhammad Ali: The Greatest . . . Poet!

by Ciaran Donnelly

Muhammad Ali Poet Bestow Education

Muhammad Ali (previously Cassius Clay) was an incredible boxer. Furthermore, he was a colossal figure in opposing the Vietnam War, standing up for the rights of African Americans in the USA, and yes, a poet!

When he refused to be inducted into the US Army, he had his world heavyweight boxing title taken away from him, as well as his boxing licence. During this period, he was not able to fight to earn a living, so he went to college campuses and gave speeches. These included speeches at Howard University on subjects such as The Intoxication of Life.

In August 1974, there was even a movement by students at Oxford University to have Ali as their professor for poetry. In 1975, he gave a speech at Harvard University.

Ali was an incredible man whose religion and principles were very important to him. He had the ability to express his thoughts poetically and capture an audience.

He was once asked ‘what would you like people to think about you when you’ve gone’.

Recipe for Life recited by Muhammad Ali

The Recipe for Life

We have found a few different versions of this on the internet, but it appears that this version may actually be an original composition by Ali.

There was no Google back in the 1960s and 1970s so Ali was quite audacious in the way he would claim the poetry of others as his own. This second clip is particularly cheeky when he brags about poetry coming naturally to him. He claims the poem Truth and goes on to recite it. It is in fact a poem by Hazrat Inayat Khan.


Truth recited by Muhammad Ali

He is also often credited with the below poem Friendship. It is a poem by Helen Steiner Rice. No matter what, you have to love Ali’s conviction and delivery of these poems and many of us wouldn’t know these poems if it wasn’t for Ali reciting them.


Friendship recited by Muhammad Ali

It would be remiss to celebrate the poetry of Ali without including any of his boxing related rhymes. There are too many to include them all here, but we have left one of our favourites below for you to enjoy. He predicts how his fight against Frazier will go for those who might not be able to afford a ticket to the cinema to watch it.

Ali v Frazer Poem

The shortest poem in the world is by Muhammad Ali

This is a genuine claim that Muhammad Ali has. As part of the publicity for his world title fight against Sonny Liston in 1964, he released an album of short poems. Of course, the title of the album was I AM THE GREATEST. Have a look at the below clip to hear the poem.


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Leave us a comment below if you think Muhammad Ali was the greatest poet or have anything else to add!

Further reading

If you are interested in learning more on this topic, we would recommend the below:

Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig

The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey by Muhammad Ali and Hana Yasmeen Ali

Helen Steiner Rice – The Healing Touch: Poems, Letters, and Life Stories

or maybe you might find one of our other blogs interesting:

4 Inspirational Poems by Helen Steiner Rice

How did the oceans get their names?

Cleopatra in 2020 – Emojis vs hieroglyphs for blogging