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The Thrilla in Manila: remembering one of the greatest boxing matches

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

David Blais

Asst. Sports Editor

Via Youtube

On October 1, 1975 one of the greatest boxing bouts in history took place in Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought tooth and nail for 14 long rounds in the deemed “The Thrilla in Manila.” With a record 500,000 pay-per-view buys and record one billion worldwide viewers, the hype was real. The fight would end up living up to more than the anticipated hype.

In one corner, hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, you have “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali. In the other, hailing from Beaufort, South Carolina, “Smokin’ Joe” Joe Frazier. Ali and Joe were two of the most accomplished boxers of all time already, and they had already met in the ring before. The first time these two met was on Match 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden (MSG) in New York City, New York. They fought for 15 rounds in a fast paced fight that Frazier won by unanimous decision. This was also Ali’s first professional loss in his career. The two faced for a rematch in January of 1974 in the same venue as before, MSG, where the referee signified for the end of a round 25 seconds early, which led to controversy for the next fight on who should officiate. Ali would end up winning by decision after the twelfth round making them each hold one victory over the other. Both men wanted a rematch and so did the world to settle the debate of who was the best boxer in the world.

The Philippines offered to host the bout to make sure the world saw it as this great nation, however it wasn’t. Three years prior in 1972 they declared martial law with poor living conditions and environments. This is why Joe Frazier decided to train in the outskirts of the Manila mountains, the city where the fight was being held. Ali on the other hand had troubles with training since his mistress was introduced as his “wife” to then Philippines president Ferdinand, which his actual wife saw back here in the United States which led to her flying out and confronting Ali. Both men, while prepping for the fight, had their own strategies about how to go about the fight. Frazier’s plan was to attack Ali’s body while Ali was planning to attack Frazier right out of the gate due to his notorious reputation of being a “...slow starter…” during fights. The fight was scheduled at a start time of 10 a.m. to accommodate worldwide viewers which was seen as a disadvantage for the fighters since they were used to fighting at night. The date, time and location were set and this became the biggest news story across the world building up unprecedented hype and eagerness.

The fight is about to begin at the packed and ruckus Philipine Coliseum. Both men met in the center of the ring for the referee’s instructions. Ali tells Frazier “You don't have it, Joe, you don't have it! I'm going to put you away!" and Frazier responds with “We’ll See.” The fight begins and Ali, sticking with his plan, starts unloading on Frazier relentlessly. Ali wins the first two rounds unanimously showing a strong start. Frazier is already showing signs of fatigue and needs to do something fast, and he does. He improves his bobbing and weaving skills and was able to keep Ali against the ropes getting good shots during round five. From here on out the men keep going back and forth with each man needing to adapt to each other’s routine and fighting styles. Both men are fatigued, sweaty, keeping the audience in the arena and at home on their feet with each and every punch. It’s the conclusion of round 13 and Ali knows he needs to put him away. When the bell for round 14 had rung, Ali kept wailing on Frazier almost as he was doing it “ will…” SkySports reporter Jim Will recalls. Ali did not want another round and gave it his all, hitting every shot he could and making sure Frazier could not get one on him. After round 14 concluded, Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch tells Frazier he can’t sustain anymore punishment with him replying with “I want him boss” and Fuche’s exclaiming “No one will forget what you did here today.” The referee is told Frazier can’t go any longer and the fight is over. Ali reigns victorious showing he was the best boxer in the world. Ali later exclaimed in an interview, “That was the closest to dying I have ever been. Joe quit just before I did.” The official scores for the fight gave Ali the edge anyway however many ringside press had the scores a lot closer, or even. The fight lived up to the hype and gave the audience a spectacle from two of the greatest to ever do it.

The fight is regarded as one of the best, or the best, boxing matches of all times depending on who you ask. Ali and Frazier both received applause and admiration for what the two had done. Many consider the bout as the most important moment in sports history for its cultural impact and how it would influence the future of boxing. It’s pay-per-view buys showed how much potential the service had and how influential sports is worldwide. Frazier would pass away in 2011 and Ali would pass away in 2016. Both men left a lasting impact and legacy that will never be forgotten. This single event changed the landscape of boxing and sports as a whole, and we have to respect these two men for what they did.


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