These boxing motivation quotes will inspire you to take your training to the next level. From early legends of the sport like Jack Dempsey to contemporary greats like Canelo Álvarez, we’ve sourced a selection of wise words from some of the world’s greatest boxers.
So, if you find your enthusiasm for training flagging, or you lose a fight or in life, these boxing motivation quotes can pick you up when you’re down.
Boxing quote #1: Sugar Ray Leonard
“Boxing is the ultimate challenge. There’s nothing that can compare to testing yourself the way you do every time you step in the ring.”
Sugar Ray Leonard is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time. In addition to holding titles in five weight divisions, Sugar Ray was a charismatic ring showman. He could out-box the best in the world and, when the occasion called for it, slug it out in the trenches.
Sugar Ray’s professional career spanned two decades (1977 to 1997). Across that comparatively long fight career, he amassed an impressive boxing record: 40 fights, 36 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw.
“Bruce Lee was an artist and, like him, I try to go beyond the fundamentals of my sport. I want the public to see a knockout in the making.”
Ray’s record reads of a rap sheet of legends. As well as having duked it out multiple times with contemporary greats such as Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns and Roberto Duran – the Panamanian ‘Hands of Stone’ – he also fought ‘Marvellous’ Marvin Hagler, Héctor Camacho, and Terry Norris.
You can find out more about Sugar Ray’s inspiring boxing journey and the trials and tribulation of his ascension to greatness in his autobiography: The Big Fight: My Story.
Inspirational boxing quote #2: Cus D’Amato
“Boxing is a contest of character and integrity. The boxer with more will, determination, desire, and intelligence is always the one who comes out the victor.”
Constantine – ‘Cus’ – D’Amato is widely remembered as the trainer who shaped Mike Tyson into a boxing prodigy. However, D’Amato had trained numerous world champions – most notably Floyd Paterson – before his all-too-brief career with Tyson.
In addition, D’Amato was also a great trainer of trainers. He mentored and tutored Teddy Atlas and Kevin Rooney, both of whom have trained their fair share of champions. (Today, Teddy Atlas works with UFC fighters as well as boxers.)
D’Amato was an early advocate of the controversial peek-a-boo style. This is where the boxer holds their gloves close to their cheeks and uses the hands to block, parry, and slip the opponent’s punches. Coupled with the peek-a-boo method, Cus coached his boxers to use lateral body and head movement, making them particularly evasive. Tyson was the foremost proponent of these styles applying them to devastating effects.
“Fear is the greatest obstacle to learning. But fear is your best friend. Fear is like fire. If you learn to control it, you let it work for you. If you don’t learn to control it, it’ll destroy you and everything around you.”
But for Cus boxing coaching wasn’t all about preparing the body for combat. He sought to instil confidence and indomitable self-belief in those who he trained. In an interview, Tyson remembers with evident fondness how Cus would fuel his fighting spirit: ‘He would tell me that I could be the best and that one day I would be world champion.’
“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.”
Cus D'Amato's boxing principles and training ethos have been captured in the book The Cus D'Amato Mind: Learn the Simple Secrets that took Boxers like Mike Tyson to Greatness.
Boxing motivation quote #3: Muhammad Ali
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion'.”
Muhammad Ali is to boxing what Michael Jordan is to basketball or Bruce Lee is to martial arts. That is, a passionate pioneer who takes their sport to the next level. A larger-than-life character, Ali shook up the boxing world when he wiped the floor with the hard-hitting heavyweight Sonny Liston in what has become one of the most controversial fights in the history of the sport.
Ali was only 22 when he fought Liston, an intimidating, tough-faced fighter with a criminal record and believed to be backed by mobsters. Liston’s fearsome reputation did not phase Ali. During the pre-fight build-up, Ali taunted his opponent dubbing him “the big ugly bear”. Yet, despite his self-belief, few thought Ali could beat Liston.
Two of the greatest Ali quotes
“If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”
“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”
It took only six rounds for Ali to wear down and defeat the big bear. The fight was declared a TKO when Liston couldn’t make the bell for the start of the seventh round. In the post-fight press conference, Liston maintained that he couldn’t continue because of an injured shoulder. However, the cuts and bruising on Liston’s face, coupled with his inability to box with the butterfly, tell a different narrative.
Ali went on to feature in many of the most memorable fights in boxing history. He also fought and beat some of the greatest names in the sport. Ali’s fight with ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier was dubbed Fight of the Century – one American boxing writer said that it was "the greatest event I've ever worked on in my life."
Ali and Frazier met two more times – their third fight culminating in the Thrilla in Manila. And then of course there was the epic Rumble in the Jungle where Ali famously played ‘rope-a-dope’ with the super-hard-hitting George Forman. Throughout a long gruelling fight Ali goaded Foreman to work him like the heavy bag. By round eight Foreman was exhausted and all but punched out. Ali took the victory with a stunning combination in the centre ring.
In total, Muhammad Ali fought 61 professional contests, 56 of which were wins. The few losses he suffered came towards the end of his long career when he started showing signs of a neurological condition that would eventually leave him disabled.
Irrespective of this disability, thought to be a consequence of his enigmatic boxing style, Ali continued to captivate millions of people across the globe. His inspiring career and rise to greatness can be enjoyed in full in Ali’s official autobiography: The Greatest: My Own Story.
Boxing motivation quote #4: Jack Dempsey
“A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t."
Jack Dempsey, also known as ‘The Menassa Mauler’, was one of the early stars of the sport. He made his professional debut in 1914 aged only 19. In just five years he climbed the ranks and won world titles at light heavyweight and heavyweight.
Dempsey was a ferocious fighter noted for his power-packed punches, granite jaw, and relentless offensive attacks. This style, if it can be called such, enabled Dempsey to deprive Jess Willard, ‘The Pottawattamie Giant’, of the heavyweight crown in 1919.
Even though Willard dwarfed Dempsey, standing some six inches taller and weighing nearly 60 pounds more, he couldn’t withstand the Menassa Mauler’s ruthless onslaught. Dempsey dropped Willard seven times in the first round alone. A brave champion in his own right and a humble loser, Willard conceded the fight on his stool in the twelfth round.
Accounts of the contest reported that Willard suffered severe injuries including a broken jaw, broken ribs, broken teeth, and a number of fractures to facial bones (Pacheco, Ferdie (2005). The 12 Greatest Rounds Of Boxing: The Untold Stories).
Back in Dempsey’s day bouts were unlimited – meaning boxers would fight until one was stopped or couldn’t continue. ‘In those days,’ says Dempsey, ‘they didn't stop mining-town fights as long as one guy could move,’ (Dempsey By The Man Himself As Told To Bob Considine and Bill Slocum).
Also, there was no neutral corner or mandatory ‘standing eight’ count. So, when a fighter was knocked down, the opponent could stand over them and resume punching the moment both gloves were off the canvass.
Despite the brutality of the sport, Dempsey retained the heavyweight title for seven years. He fought a total of 85 professional contests, winning 53 by knockout. Over an extremely active career, he lost only six times. Dempsey gives us a glimpse into how he developed his boxing brilliance in his very own book: Fighting techniques and strategies from World Champion and Hall of Fame Boxer.
Famous boxing quote #5: Canelo Álvarez
“If you don't take an opponent serious, they surprise you.”
It’s not up for argument, Canelo Saúl Álvarez is the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world today. And, if he keeps winning, he’ll likely take the crown as one of the all-time greats.
Canelo’s amateur career isn’t much to speak of. But that’s not because he was unsuccessful as an amateur. According to some sources, Canelo’s coaches found it difficult to find him opponents because of his reputation as a hard-hitting counterpuncher.
To keep him active in the ring, Canelo’s team decided to enter the professional ranks. He was just 15 at the time. However, in the first two-years of his professional career, he knocked eleven out of 13 opponents.
“I want to be like a Muhammad Ali, like a Julio Cesar Chavez.”
Álvarez climbed the ranks quickly winning multiple titles in different weight divisions. A rising young star who’d proved himself with some of the best names in the sport, Álvarez earned a shot at Floyd Mayweather’s WBA light middleweight title.
This is the only loss on Álvarez’s record to date. Mayweather secured a points decision after an action-packed 12 round contest. Álvarez moved up a division and won the vacant WBC middleweight title in a tough fight against Miguel Cotto.
With a total of 60 fights (as of 2022) under his belt, Álvarez has won world titles at light middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight. He has only suffered one defeat and two draws.
These boxing motivation quotes can offer a source of inspiration and encouragement. They can be used to get you through a tough training session or fortify confidence before a contest.
Boxing motivation quotes can also strengthen self-discipline. So, when you start this boxing regime, the above quotes will motivate you when the going gets tough.
After these boxing motivation quotes check out the five best boxing quotes of all time.