There is plenty of competition, not least from his friend Marianne Moore. But it’s Ali’s birthday today–he was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942–and so the Champ gets the edge. Employing striking diction, plainspoken cunning, existential post-modernist imagery–all while anticipating (setting the stage for?) modern hip-hop’s trademark braggadocio–Ali wrote and recited the seven line masterpiece below in 1974 while preparing for his heavyweight title battle with George Foreman.
Besides, we don’t really have to judge for ourselves who’s the greatest. Ali is the greatest–just ask him.
I’ve wrassled with an alligator, I’ve tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning and thrown thunder in jail.
You know I’m bad.
Just last week, I murdered a rock.
Injured a stone.
Hospitalized a brick.
I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.
Happy 73rd, Champ.