Muhammad Ali is widely revered as the greatest heavyweight boxer in the history of the sport. Ali was, of course, not only talented inside of the ring. The champ was known as the “Louisville Lip” because of his ability to draw attention and eyes via his interviews and promos. Anybody who has any desires to be involved with a promotion such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship or World Wrestling Entertainment would do well to study hours of Ali footage to understand what it means to cut a “money promo.” Ali, unlike anybody before him, understood how important being able to talk in front of the cameras and to reporters was to his profession.
The truth of the matter is that there are far more than just ten examples of Ali being a star during interviews and while cutting promos on opponents. These ten will, however, give somebody introducing himself to Ali or somebody looking to reminisce a solid idea about why Ali was so marketable during his time. Nobody had to wonder if Ali was, in fact, “the greatest.” Ali told anybody who would listen that he was the greatest to ever enter the ring and to ever hold a championship. Boxing and mixed martial arts could use another Ali, but we may never again be treated to such a superstar. Thanks for everything, champ.
10. Ali Versus Brian Clough
Somebody once informed Ali that there was an English football manager named Brian Clough who had a reputation for being a talker and for being “another Muhammad Ali.” Ali, as you probably could have guessed, did not stand for this, and he responded by reminding Clough and the rest of the world that Ali was one-of-a-kind. Ali did not personally know Clough when this video was recorded, and that makes the clip that much better. Ali cut a promo on a stranger, and he made you believe that he had heard enough of this “wannabe” Ali. You wouldn’t have wanted to make Ali angry during the champ’s prime.
9. Ali’s Legacy
We are often left wondering how a person would want to be remembered after he is no longer with us. That is not the case with Ali, though, as he once offered a “recipe” for the legacy that he hoped he would leave the world. What is interesting about this brief clip is that Ali does not directly mention his career. Ali never once says that he wants to be remembered as “the greatest.” Instead, Ali spoke about contributing to humanity and to the world. Ali wanted to make this floating orb a better place during his short time on it. We hope he knew that he exceeded those expectations.
8. Ali Versus Foreman
Ali made people laugh. That simple reality is sometimes lost during discussions about why Ali was so popular and why his interviews and promos are remembered decades after he stopped fighting. Leading up to his legendary fight against George Foreman, Ali impersonated the then-heavyweight champion with hilarious over-dramatic simulations of how Foreman boxed. Ali made reporters and fans laugh, but he also showed that he would defeat the slower Foreman via his speed. Many around the world did not give Ali much of a shot of pulling off the upset. They were wrong.
7. Ali and Cosell
Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell: The two greatest men at their chosen professions. It was only fitting that Ali and Cosell would be linked together for years and that the two enjoyed such a positive relationship. Any piece about Ali’s interviews and promos would be empty without a video of the champ talking to Cosell. In this clip, both Ali and Cosell take verbal jabs at each other, and both managed to land some shots during the interview. By the end, however, there is no doubt left that the two had a great deal of respect for each other during their careers.
“It will be a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the gorilla in Manilla!” The biggest shame about this video and about others that feature Ali talking about Joe Frazier is that Frazier took Ali’s comments personally and held a grudge for decades. Frazier apparently failed to realize that Ali was doing both fighters and also the sport many favors by cutting these types of promos, as Ali’s comments help build what remains, to this day, one of the greatest feuds in boxing history. Frazier and Ali didn’t need to be friends, but Frazier should have realized from the beginning of this rivalry that Ali was merely doing what was best for business.
A young fan probably couldn’t have guessed the answer he was going to receive when he asked Ali about retirement. While Ali began his answer by pretending to sleep and suggesting that he was going to enjoy his rest after his boxing days came to an end, the champ then began to offer comments on far more than retirement. Yes, Ali was a great smack-talker who worked to sell himself and sell his fights. This video serves as a reminder that Ali was more than just a gimmick. Ali was deep, insightful, intelligent and well-spoken, and those who were able to hear him touch on such serious matters were better for it.
4. I Am The Greatest!
Ali needed only four words to tell everybody exactly what he thought of himself as a boxer and as a sports personality. It also didn’t hurt that Ali was able to produce colorful and entertaining poems seemingly on the fly. This short video, which somebody decided to set to music for whatever reasons, shows a young trash-talking Ali calling his shot and predicting when he would win his fight against Sonny Liston. Those rhymes had a way of staying with sports fans heading into fights, and those words also put Ali into the headlines. This is just another example of Ali serving as his own promoter.
3. After Foreman
Boxing fans and analysts around the world expected to see George Foreman dismantle the over-matched Ali during what was known as “The Rumble in the Jungle.” That did not happen, as Ali utilized his famous “Rope-a-Dope” technique and tired Foreman before delivering the final blows that knocked the powerful Foreman out. After what may have been the biggest victory of his professional career, Ali had more than a few words for his critics and for those who doubted him. Ali even explained why he didn’t “dance” during the fight. It is a tremendous promo.
2. September 11
Americans and individuals all around the world were understandably filled with fear following the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. During a televised fundraiser that aired on multiple U.S. television networks at the same time, Ali made maybe the most poignant comments of that broadcast when he fought through his illness and spoke about his beliefs and his thoughts on the tragedies that occurred in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Ali was no longer as loud and as bold as he was during his physical prime, but he showed everybody on that night that he was still the greatest.
1. Shook Up the World
It is the king of all Ali promos, one cut inside of the ring after a monumental victory and one that, for some, put Ali on the map. The wide-eyed young champion defiantly announced to the world that he was, in fact, the greatest, and Ali followed that up by yelling that he was pretty and also a “bad man.” In a world in which fighters hug each other after boxing matches and after MMA bouts, every would-be professional needs to see Ali in all of his glory and understand the importance of this moment. Ali wasn’t just a star because he won. Ali was a star because he carried himself like a star and because he was the total package.