The Thrilla in Manila was the third and final famous boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of the World, fought at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines on October 1, 1975.
The bout is often ranked as one of the greatest fights of 20th century boxing, and is the climax to the bitter rivalry between Ali and Frazier over who was the legitimate Heavyweight Champion. That situation came about after Ali was stripped of the title over his refusal to join the armed forces when drafted during the Vietnam war. Some years later after repeated weekly prodding from Ali, Frazier petitioned President Nixon to restore Ali's right to box thereby bringing about the so called Fight of the Century between two undisputed heavyweight champions in 1971.
During the whole period between their first and their last face-off in Manila, including the years which preceded the restoration of Ali's right to fight, Ali had used his wit, sharp tongue, and position with the press to take characteristic verbal pot shots at Frazier (as was his practice with all opponents—and which made good copy and controversy) but these became controversial and at times ugly, after his loss in the Fight of the Century, and this verbal battery heated the rivalry into new territory.
Both boxers battled each other into near incapacity, and Frazier's trainer determined he should stop the bout after the fourteenth round, so the decision went to Ali as a technical knockout (TKO). The early and middle parts of the fight were close, with spectacular ebb and flow, and in the later rounds things gradually swung Ali's way in the scoring for any likely decision. The final match up between Ali and Frazier was ultimately detrimental to the health of both fighters. The first fight in 1971 between these two pugilists went fifteen rounds and the second fight going 12 rounds, which were both similarly hard on the participants.
At 10:45 AM, with a morning fight to coincide with international TV audiences, the bell for Round 1 rang. Ali had previously told his trainers that he was going to "put a whuppin'" on Joe Frazier, and he started the fight looking to do just that. Frazier was known for starting fights slowly, and Ali came out looking to use that to his advantage. Rather than dance and use his speed to stay away from Frazier, Ali came out and walked flat footed to the center of the ring and then proceeded to unleash a flurry of combinations on Frazier, who was hurt a number of times by Ali's onslaught, including staggering backwards several times in the first few rounds. However, to the amazement of Ali and many watching, Frazier continued to come forward, intent on punishing Ali's body at close range despite having to take more and more of the withering punishment Ali was dishing out. According to Pacheco, Ali, who wanted to make it a short fight, grew so frustrated with Frazier's refusal to go down or stop coming forward that he screamed "You stupid chump, you!" at Frazier in the fourth round.
As Ali began to tire from all the energy he had expended in the searing heat, Frazier turned up his own offense and began punishing Ali to the body and the head with his trademark hooks. By the sixth round, Frazier had staggered him in turn and seemed to be gaining control of the bout. At the beginning of the seventh round, Ali reportedly whispered in Frazier's ear, "Joe, they told me you was all washed up" Frazier growled back, "They told you wrong, pretty boy."
Frazier seemed to dominate the middle rounds. Ali tried to fend Frazier off with occasional furious flurries of punches, spurts of manic activity, and even unsuccessfully tried to use the rope-a-dope technique that had defeated George Foreman nearly a year earlier, but it was all negated by Frazier's relentless assault and power. Ali's camp seemed to have overlooked the fact that Frazier's smothering fighting style, which employed great numbers of left hooks, was in many ways, the perfect foil for Ali.
Between the terrific heat inside the stadium, Frazier's assault and his own nonchalant training, it began to seem that Ali would wilt and fall to defeat.
Finally, in the tenth round, Frazier began to slow down and tire, and Ali slowly turned the tide. In the 11th round he used his speed to dance more, and to unload a series of fast combinations on Frazier, which severely bruised his face by the end of the round, swelling Frazier's eyes to the point that nothing but a tiny slit remained open. Throughout round 12 Ali continued to turn the momentum, increasingly overwhelming Frazier, and using the fact that Frazier could no longer see Ali's right hand coming to hit Frazier with one hard right after another. About a minute into Round 13, Ali landed another blistering combination on Frazier, sending the injured fighter's mouthguard flying into the crowd. During the next two minutes Ali relentlessly kept after Frazier, the mouthguard not being replaced until the bell, hitting Frazier with hard combinations when Frazier wasn't throwing punches, and when Frazier did throw, Ali used the openings left to inflict yet more damage. Frazier's mouth was badly cut by the end of this round.
Frazier's trainer, Eddie Futch, wanted to stop the fight at this point. Frazier, however, refused, asking his coach to give him one more round. In round 14, Frazier was almost blind as he stepped in, and was met once more with punishing blows from Ali. It was later revealed that Frazier actually had a cataract in his left eye and so, with the punishment from Ali closing his right eye, Frazier was effectively fighting blind in the last rounds of the fight. By the 14th round Frazier was virtually helpless, and although Ali was desperately tired and hurting, he was able to summon the energy once again to give Frazier a fierce beating, and once again Frazier was staggered and nearly knocked down before the bell ended the round.
Seeing the grisly results of round 14, Eddie Futch decided to stop the fight between rounds rather than risk a similar or worse fate for Frazier in the 15th. Frazier protested stopping the fight, shouting "I want him boss," and trying to get Futch to change his mind. Futch simply replied, "It's all over. No one will forget what you did here today", and signaled to the referee to end the bout. Ali was therefore declared the victor. He would later claim that this was the closest to dying he had ever been, and also stated, "Joe Frazier, I'll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I'm gonna tell ya, that's one helluva man, and God bless him." In a brief post-fight interview with one of the commentators, Ali announced, "He is the greatest fighter of all times, next to me."
Ali later indicated that he was in no condition to go out for the 15th round. He asked trainer Angelo Dundee to cut off his gloves, which would have given Frazier (who wanted the fight to continue) the TKO victory.
1975-10-01 : Muhammad Ali 224½lbs beat Joe Frazier 215½lbs by RTD in round 14 of 15
Location: Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Referee: Carlos Padilla 66-60
Judge: Larry Nadayag 66-62
Judge: Alfredo Quiazon 67-62
World Boxing Council Heavyweight Title (Ali defending)
World Boxing Association Heavyweight Title (Ali defending)
Muhammad Ali's third fight against his archrival Joe Frazier was a spectacular ending to the long lasting struggle of the two Heavyweights who faced each other for a total of 132 minutes in the ring. The "Thrilla in Manila" is considered one of the most brutal and bitter bouts in the history of boxing; it was the only time an Ali - Frazier bout did not last for the scheduled time.
After having regained the title against George Foreman in Zaire one year earlier, Ali had successfully defended the belt three times within three months against mostly mediocre opponents. Now he was to face Joe Frazier for the third time to change the record to his favor (Frazier had won the first bout in 1971, Ali prevailed in the rematch three years later).
The bout was important for Ali not only in terms of prestige. He was guaranteed a purse of six million dollars which was twice as much as Joe's and more than Ali had received for the first two fights altogether.
As usual, Ali didn't miss a chance to verbally attack his foe in the days leading to the bout. This time it was worse than ever: He gave Frazier the nickname "Gorilla", called him ignorant and mocked him because of his ghetto slang. Frazier reciprocated with untypically bellicose statements: "I want to hurt him. I don't want to knock him out. I want to take his heart out."
Finally, the day of the fight was there. On the morning of October 1 (the fight took place at 10:45 a.m. to suit US viewers) 25,000 people crowded the Philippines Coliseum in Quezon City, six miles outside Manila, hoping for a great fight between stylist and slugger.
As expected, Ali puts pressure on Frazier in the beginning, stinging him with jabs and combinations to the head, winning the first rounds. Frazier does not lose hope - he knows his time is still to come. He keeps smiling as he takes Ali's punches and retaliates with punches to Ali's arms and body, once in a while a hook gets through to Ali's head.
With about a third of the fight over, the tide slowly turns. Ali tires and Joe's punches hit target more often. The champion rests at the ropes like he did against Foreman. This time, however, the 'rope-a-dope' can not be successful because it is part of Frazier's tactic to batter Ali's arms until they are hurting to the extent that taking a blow is less painful than blocking it. Frazier tires too and by round ten both fighters show clear signs of fatigue, fighting at low pace. Angelo Dundee said after the fight: "Both guys ran out of gas, only my guy had an extra tank"
Where Ali took the energy to come back in the heat and humidity of the Coliseum and hit Frazier worse than anyone had hit him before, has been subject to speculations ever since. "Ali's magic" appeared for the last time in his career. From round twelve on, Frazier sees no land. In round thirteen his mouthpiece is knocked out of his mouth and out of the ring. So are his winning chances. By round fourteen, Joe's left eye is completely shut so that he is not able to see Ali throwing a right hand any more.
In the break before the last round, Frazier's trainer Eddie Futch stops the fight. Too dominating, too far ahead had Ali been on the scorecards, too handicapped was Joe in terms of his vision to have any chance of winning. Moments after the fight was over, Ali fainted in his corner. No one knows whether he could have resumed the fight. Ali was later quoted that he had been ready to quit if Joe had not.
Both Ali and Frazier fought to their absolute limit and maybe beyond. Joe's eyes were still shut hours after the fight. Ali's body showed conspicuous signs of the battle, with hematomas and bruises and swellings everywhere, as a result of "punches that would have knocked down a house" as Joe later put it. Ali is supposed to have told Angelo Dundee yet during the fight that this was "the closest to dying" he had ever been.
Friends and fans of the champion hoped Ali would finally after this slaughter in the ring, at the age of 33, announce his retirement. However, six more years would pass until this wish became reality at last. In the last ten bouts of his career, following the "Thrilla in Manila", Ali would never again be as good as he was in Manila on the morning of October 1.