Ali's reinvention of heavyweight boxing, turning his side of it into something of elegance and grace, allied to necessary brutality, alone would be deserving of the epithet he bestowed on himself. When you add to that his understanding of the athlete as celebrity showman you have something extraordinarily prescient of sport beyond the twentieth century.
But to have also been a leader in all senses in the struggle for justice for his race and a role model of resistance to oppression beggars belief. And all this done with an exhilarating joy for life, an intelligent and disarming wit and sense of fun.
We're not likely to see his like again any time soon.