Little Bits of History

Thrilla in Manila

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 1, 2014
Thrilla in Manila poster

Thrilla in Manila poster

October 1, 1975: The Thrilla in Manila takes place in the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon, City, Philippines. This was the third and final fight between boxing greats Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. The winner would be the 1975 Heavyweight Champion of the World. The first time Ali and Frazier met in the ring was at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and took place on March 8, 1971. Frazier took the win that night from a previously undefeated Ali in a 15-round bout. Smokin’ Joe scored the fight’s (and the three matches) only knockdown at the beginning of the final round and was given the win by unanimous decision.

The two fighters met again in January 1974 with neither of them holding the title at the time of the fight. The two men had gotten into a brawl during an interview segment with Howard Cosell prior to the fight which provided more excitement than the actual bout. The fight was poorly refereed and in the second round, Ali popped Frazier with a hard right which backed Frazier up. There were 25 seconds left in the round, but Referee Tony Peres stepped between the men and ended the round early. Frazier was able to regroup before the next bell. Peres also failed to halt Ali’s illegal holdings and pulling down on Frazier’s neck in the clinches which is what helped Ali gain the 12-round decision. The refereeing for the next match was a major issue.

Ali was famous for his rhyming and also with giving his opponents derisive nicknames before a fight. As a lead up to this bout, Ali was fond of giving a singsong chant of “It will be a Killa and a Thrilla and a Chilla when I get The Gorilla in Manila.” He spoke his change while throwing punches at an action-figure-sized gorilla doll. Getting an opponent so mad he couldn’t think straight worked well when Ali fought George Foreman, but it didn’t work as well with Frazier. Just days before the fight, Ali introduced his mistress to Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos as his wife. Ali’s wife saw this, was not amused, and flew to the Philippines to straighten things out.

Frazier’s trainer was focused on making sure the illegal holds did not continue in this fight. He had counted 133 illegal holds in the 1974 fight. A local man was finally chosen to ref. The arena, baking in the hot, muggy climate had a temperature of about 120⁰ under the lights inside the ring. Ali came on strong to Frazier’s slower start. Both were affected by the heat and humidity. Even so, the bout is rated as one of the best in sport’s history and resulted in a TKO after the 14th round. Ali, two years older, nine pounds heavier, and three inches taller, proved he was – at least on this day – The Greatest.

You don’t have it, Joe, you don’t have it! I’m going to put you away! – Muhammad Ali, stepping into the ring

We’ll see. – Joe Frazier, in reply

The main turning point of the fight came very late. It came midway through the thirteenth round when one of two tremendous right-hand smashes sent the gum shield sailing out of Frazier’s mouth. The sight of this man actually moving backwards seemed to inspire Ali.  – Frank McGhee

I swear he hit Frazier with thirty tremendous punches – each one as hard as those which knocked out George Foreman in Zaire – during the fourteenth round. He was dredging up all his own last reserves of power to make sure there wouldn’t have to be a fifteenth round.  – Frank McGhee

Also on this day: Yosemite National Park – In 1890 US Congress creates Yosemite National Park.
The March King – In 1880, John Philip Sousa became the leader of the United States Marine Band.
Superhighway – In 1940, the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened.
Bright Idea – In 1946, Mensa was formed.


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