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Muhammad Ali KO’s Joe Frazier – Thrilla in Manila – October 1, 1975

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The Ali-Frazier Triology

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought for the heavyweight title three times. Their first fight, which is often referred to as “The Fight of the Century, or just “The Fight,” took place at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 8, 1971. The bout went 15 rounds and Frazier won it by a unanimous decision.

They fought a rematch, again at Madison Square Garden, on January 28, 1974. By this time, Frazier had lost his title to George Foreman, so it was a non-title bout. The fight was scheduled for 12 rounds, and went the distance. This time Ali won a close, unanimous decision. However, several sports writers, including Red Smith, thought that Frazier should have gotten the decision.

On October 30, 1974, the undefeated George Foreman attempted to defend his title against Ali. They met in Kinshasa, Zaire. The fight was branded as “The Rumble in the Jungle.” After frustrating Foreman with a tactic that he called “the rope-a-dope,” Ali won the fight by TKO in the eighth round.

After losing to Ali in their second fight, Frazier fought two ranked and “respectable” opponents, Jerry Quarry and Jimmy Ellis, and beat them both by TKO.

The Rubber Match

That set the stage for Ali-Frazier III, a fight which came to be known as “The Thrilla in Manila.” As the name suggests, the fight took place in Manila, Philippines, on October 1, 1975.

Here’s how the press reported the “Thrilla in Manila”

AP: Muhammad Ali wanted to quit In the 10th round against Joe Frazier’s incredible body attack. But he just couldn’t, he said, because “I am the champion.”

And he still is. Ali was every bit that as he fought off fantastic pressure from the pursuing Frazier to retain his title after 14 incredible rounds. Joe Frazier was every bit the champion he once was as he made a tremendous bid to regain the title and save his career. It was the third Ali-Frazier fight and it wrote an amazing end to what has been one of this sport’s most exciting and widely followed periods. “I’ve been fighting 21 years and this is the tiredest I have ever been.” said Ali, who after 11 rounds seemed headed for defeat. But he called on something extra, as he has so often has done in the past, and pounded Frazier helpless in the 13th and 14th rounds, hitting him often and hard. What almost was Smokin’ Joe’s finest hour, ended instead, with him sitting on his stool at the end of the 14th, with his trainer, Eddie Futch, signaling to referee Carlos Padilla Jr. that Frazier had had enough

Red Smith in the New York Times: When time has cooled the violent passions of the sweltering day and the definitive history is written of the five-year war between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, the objective historian will remember that Joe was still coming in at the finish.

For more than 40 minutes, the former heavyweight champion of the world, who was now the challenger, attacked the two-time champion with abandoned, almost joyous, ferocity. For seven rounds in a row he bludgeoned his man with hooks, hounding him into corners, nailing him to the ropes. And then, when Ali seemed hopelessly beaten, he came on like the good champion he is. In the 12th round, the 13th and all through the cruel 14th, Ali punched the shapeless, grinning mask that pursued him until Eddie Futch could take no more.

After 14 rounds of one of the roughest matches ever fought for the heavyweight championship, Frazier’s trainer, Futch, gave up. At his signal, the referee stopped the fight with All still champion.

All three Filipino officials had Ali leading on points at the end, but in The New York Times’ book, Futch snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. On The Times’ two scorecards, Frazier had won eight of the first 13 rounds when he walked into the blows that beat him stupid. He lost while winning, yet little Eddie was right to negotiate the surrender. Frazier’s $2-million guarantee wasn’t enough to compensate him for another round like the last.


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