This is from the New Yorker, concerning a journalist who traveled with Muhammad Ali in 1991:
After lunch, Ali posed for photographs on top of “Sonny Liston.” He looked tired, but mugged gamely for the cameras. Reporters asked the usual questions: How was his health? (Ali had been suffering from Parkinson’s since the mid-eighties.) And what did he think of Evander Holyfield, the current champ? Ali was diplomatic. He also acknowledged his slurred speech. “I talk about boxing, I have trouble,” he said, in his familiar feathery voice. “I talk about Allah and my voice gets better. Boxing was nothin’. Just a way to introduce me to the world. My real purpose is to carry the word of Allah.”
The bold quote shows how Ali was only pompous on the outside. On the inside he was very humble. He gave up his boxing career at his peak because he fought against the State. He was willing to sacrifice his whole career, and he did, to stand up for what was right. Even post career, post all the trash talking and haughty sounding marketing-talk before fights, in the end he had no problem admitting it was all a show.
His real fight was against war and State sponsored murder, and he won. Boxing was able to get him famous enough to make an impact. And he accomplished that goal.