The Myth of “The Thrilla in Manila”

By Mike Silver on September 30, 2012
The Myth of “The Thrilla in Manila”
“The Thrilla in Manila” became the most overrated boxing match in the history of the sport.

Would we still be lauding this fight in such glowing terms if it was Ali who was not allowed to come out for the 15th round and Frazier was the victor?

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”—John F. Kennedy

Today is the 37th anniversary of the famous “Thrilla in Manila”—the third and final fight between arch rivals Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It was on this day in 1975 that Ali retained his heavyweight title with a 14th round TKO of Frazier in Manila, the Philippines.

The platitudes for that fight continue to be repeated so often and with such conviction, in print, television, and on the internet, that people who’ve never seen even one round believe it to be the greatest heavyweight championship match of the twentieth century.

Some have gone so far as to say it was the greatest fight of any weight division in the entire history of the sport! In 1997 The Ring magazine awarded it “Fight of the Century” honors in its all-time ratings. In 1999 ESPN’s Sports Century Series ranked the fight as the fifth greatest sports event of all time! The bandwagon was getting way too crowded. But there was still room for the resident boxing historian of a popular cable TV boxing program (no, not the fellow with hat and cigar) to jump on board. When asked “what fight would you show to a new fan to demonstrate boxing at its very best?” he unhesitatingly answered, “The third Ali vs. Frazier fight….it had everything.”

These extreme statements and honorifics take in a lot of territory, especially when one considers all of the great prizefights that have taken place since the Marquis of Queensberry rules were introduced to boxing over 100 years ago.

I believe there are several reasons why Ali vs. Frazier III continues to maintain its lofty status, while other more deserving fights do not enjoy the same degree of notoriety. We can start with the words “The Thrilla in Manila”. The catchy phrase originated with Ali and appeared on every poster and program, eventually becoming the fight’s permanent identifying label. More than three decades after the fact, even people with absolutely no interest in the sport have a vague recollection that “The Thrilla in Manila” refers to an exciting boxing match that involved Muhammad Ali.

They might also remember that it was a particularly brutal match. But, if you have been around boxing long enough, you know it was no more brutal than countless other professional prizefights.

Now ask yourself this question: What if the fighters involved were not named Ali and Frazier but instead were two heavyweight contenders named “Smith” and “Jones”? Same fight, just different names. Would “The Thrilla” still be remembered today as a great fight?

I believe that anyone who witnessed the first Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott title fight would call it great even if they did not know the names of the fighters. A great fight has to be recognized on its merits alone. 

Here is a second point to ponder: Do you think we would still be lauding this fight in such glowing terms if it was Ali who was not allowed to come out for the 15th round and Frazier was the victor? 

A Good, Tough Club Fight

To accurately evaluate “The Thrilla in Manila”—based strictly on its merits as a prizefight—is to come to the conclusion that it was no better or worse than a good, tough, club fight. Even from a historical perspective it lacked gravitas. For example, the Johnson vs. Jeffries “White Hope” fight and the second Dempsey vs. Tunney “Long Count” fight were not great but their historical significance to the sport raised them to another level. 

I can hear the cries of outrage emanating from the army of Ali loyalists who consider what I have just written as something akin to sacrilege, especially by those fans that came of age during his reign. That is understandable. Strong emotions coupled with blind hero worship and a follow-the-crowd mentality often cloud rational judgments.

But how does one justify naming “The Thrilla in Manila” as one of the greatest fights of the century when it was not even the best fight of the 1970s!

There were at least seven outstanding prizefights in the 1970s that, in my opinion, were better and more interesting than “The Thrilla”. Topping the list is the first Ali vs. Frazier bout that took place four and a half years earlier and was superior in every way. The others were Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Wilfredo Benitez (Welterweight); Carlos Monzon vs. Rodrigo Valdez I (Middleweight); Roberto Duran vs. Esteban De Jesus II (Lightweight); Matthew Franklin vs. Yacqui Lopez I (Light heavyweight); Alexis Arguello vs. Alfredo Escalera I (Junior Lightweight); Carlos Zarate vs. Alfonso Zamora (Bantamweight).   

My purpose is not to diminish the greatness of Ali—that is beyond question—but to set the record straight about a fight that has been distorted and misrepresented for decades mainly because it conveniently feeds into the legend and lore of the most famous boxer who ever lived.

A Reliable Litmus Test

My friend and fellow IBRO (International Boxing Research Organization) historian Bobby Franklin uses a simple litmus test to determine the quality quotient of a professional boxing match. “There are certain favorite movies I may come across when I’m channel surfing, such as the first Godfather movie, Casablanca, or The Shawshank Redemption,” says Bobby. 

“Even though I’ve seen these movies a hundred times, no matter what part of the movie is being shown at the moment I just have to stop and watch it because I’m going to see something new in it and I’m going to enjoy it. And it’s the same when I’m watching boxing.

“If I go to the Classic Sports channel and they’re showing fights, there are certain ones I’ll stop at, but the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ is not one of them. That’s a fight you’ve seen it once and you know it. The lines are boring. It if were a movie it would be very boring. It’s just two guys hitting each other so I don’t go there again.”

I agree with Bobby. I never tire of watching a great movie…or a great prizefight.

Revisiting “The Thrilla in Manila”

For those of you who may not have seen the fight, and to refresh the memory of those who have, let us time travel back to October 1, 1975 and take a ringside seat at the Areneta Coliseum in Quezon City, just a stone’s throw from Manila, capital of the Philippines.

As the 27,000 fans in the sold out indoor stadium cheered, and millions of people throughout the world watched via closed circuit television, the two gladiators entered the arena amid much pomp and ceremony courtesy of the fighters’ hosts, President Ferdinand Marcos and his shoe happy wife Imelda.

The betting odds favored Ali at 8 to 5.

Weighing a solid 215½ lbs. the 5’11” Frazier was, as always, in excellent condition. Ali, at 6’3” and 224½ lbs., was a bit overweight. 

One year earlier Ali had regained the heavyweight championship from George Foreman weighing a trim 216 lbs. While the extra eight pounds Ali carried was intended to add power to his punches, it could also mean that he was not trained to the very peak of condition. If the latter was the case—as it proved to be—Muhammad would be in for a rough night unless he could take out Frazier in an early round. 

Ali was quite confident that Joe Frazier was a spent fighter who was ripe for the taking. His assessment was not totally inaccurate. Frazier had definitely seen better days. He looked ragged and shopworn in his previous outing seven months earlier while scoring an eighth round TKO against washed up Jimmy Ellis. Five years earlier a prime Frazier had overwhelmed Ellis in just four rounds. 

Although Ali didn’t know it, Joe’s vision in his left eye was impaired by a cataract. Years later his personal physician would admit that going into this fight Joe’s vision in his left eye had deteriorated to 20/400, which is legally blind. Joe also had an arthritic left shoulder that had to be treated with cortisone before each fight. This information was kept quiet by Joe and his management team and only came to light when Frazier documented it in his 1996 autobiography.

A Little Less Smoke—A Little Less Float

But Ali himself was no longer the elusive “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” speed demon of years past. He could only float and sting in spurts. In between these brief interludes of activity he will go into his “rope-a-dope” routine made famous in his title winning fight against George Foreman a year earlier.

Both fighters had deteriorated since their first classic battle in 1971, but Frazier more so than Ali. In this fight the playing field was leveled as each man’s weaknesses would be exploited by the other man’s strengths.

To the untrained eye “Smokin’ Joe” looks as he always had, moving ever forward in that perpetual jiggle and bob style of his. Yet there were subtle differences. When he moves within punching range his hands do not fire off with the old piston like rapidity. And his attempts to slip or weave under Ali’s jab, which in the past was accomplished with rapid fluid movements of his head and upper body, now, appear stiff and ill-timed. Most alarming of all is the fact that his bread and butter punch, the left hook, appears to have lost some of its explosive power and accuracy.

The fight started as expected with Ali using his speed and mobility to avoid Frazier’s rushes. But when Ali stops to punch he plants his feet firmly on the canvas, putting the full weight of his body into his power shots. He is attempting to end the bout quickly and avoid a war of attrition. Ali appears very confident in these early rounds as he freely trades punches with Joe, taking liberties that he would not have dared four years earlier. 

Ali knows he can score effectively if he stays away from the ropes and corners. But he cannot sustain an attack for more than a few seconds. The heat in the poorly air-conditioned arena is affecting both fighters but it is Ali who tires first. It is only when Ali retreats to the ropes and goes into his defensive shell that Frazier begins to score with some degree of consistency. Yet even when he is able to break through the “rope-a-dope” defense, his punches, although damaging and hurtful, do not carry enough steam to stagger or knock down the champion.

The anticipation of a knockout is not always essential to establish a great fight, but the lack of it, particularly in a heavyweight championship, robs the event of an essential dramatic element. 

Repetitive Patterns

Beginning in the 4th round the tempo of the fight changes and a repetitive pattern begins to develop. Ali, as he fatigues, either grabs Frazier in a clinch or does his “rope-a-dope” thing with ever increasing frequency. Over the course of the fight he initiates no less than ninety-five clinches to Frazier’s one. This behavior on Ali’s part seriously detracts from the overall quality of the fight. 

In total, Ali spends nearly one-third of the fight (14 minutes out of 45) passively covering up in “rope-a-dope” mode. It is Frazier who does all the work during those 14 minutes as he pounds on Ali’s arms and torso. This is about as interesting as watching a boxer pound a heavy sandbag in the gym.

In his effort to conserve energy Ali’s stalling tactics become incessant, predictable and eventually tiresome. It is not the type of activity one expects to see in a great fight.

“A Somber Brutality”

Despite these imperfections one aspect of the bout that is often lauded by the pundits is its brutality. The sight of Frazier relentlessly punching his stationary target while Ali, head down, gloves up, braces himself against the ropes, is indeed brutal to watch. It reminds one of the meat locker scene in the first Rocky movie. Except that Ali is only slightly more animated than a side of beef.

It is obvious Joe wants to inflict as much damage as he is capable of dishing out. His punches, especially the persistent attack on Ali’s kidney’s, midsection and ribs cause many ringsiders to wince. But the effort has about as much artistry as a day laborer slugging a concrete sidewalk with a sledgehammer. There is a crude and imprecise quality to Joe’s attack, the aesthetics of which are further downgraded by Ali’s submissive defensive posture. Where is the drama in this?

Brutality, by itself, is not enough to quantify a superior prizefight even though, in the right hands, it can have a singular, spellbinding artistry. Joe Louis’s swift and precise one round annihilation of Max Schmeling in 1938 is a perfect example. The same is true of Sugar Ray Robinson’s studied demolition of Jake LaMotta in the final rounds of their sixth bout.

Not so for the “Thrilla in Manila”.

Several years ago, while doing research for my first book, The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science, I came across a newspaper report of a particularly brutal fight that took place in Yankee Stadium in 1951 between Jake La Motta and light heavyweight contender Bob Murphy. “The Bronx Bull” spent most of the fight up against the ropes absorbing a savage beating. The article was written by the late Jimmy Cannon, perhaps the greatest sportswriter of the twentieth century. The same words he used to describe that fight could have been used to describe “The Thrilla in Manila”: 

“They fought with a somber brutality but their ferocity turned monotonous and became unexciting. It was as though the multitude in Yankee Stadium last night watched a man being slugged into a bloody daze by a thug using a salami as a blackjack.

“The fight racket was reduced to its bleakly savage essentials…It was a graceless fight but a harmful one.”

Today hardly anyone remembers that fight because other than its “somber brutality” there was not much else to distinguish it from many other brutal prizefights. 

Unlike his less discerning modern-day counterparts, Jimmy Cannon would not have been caught up in the exaggerated hyperbole of Ali vs. Frazier III. He had an exacting eye for the truth and x-ray vision for seeing past the layers of baloney and insipid commentary that too often attend this once great sport. He also had been watching and analyzing fights since the 1930s so his frame of reference and perception reflected that experience.

Ali the Illusionist

Ali realizes he will lose the decision unless he can interrupt Frazier’s attack with brief offensive displays. When the action moves away from the ropes he easily scores with quick combinations that excite the crowd. Joe’s decline, as compared to his prime, is most apparent at these times. But the punches do not stop him or even slow him down.

After round three Ali abandons the attempt to knock out Joe and, except for his occasional flurry, reverts to survival mode. He no longer puts the full weight of his body into his blows. That would cause him to expend too much energy. More often than not he will fling out his arms, slapping with a half open glove or, when he attempts an uppercut, hitting Joe with the underside (wrist) section of the glove. But no matter what he attempts he cannot hold Joe back for more than a few seconds.

From rounds four to twelve Ali seems less concerned with the accuracy and strength of his punches than he is with impressing the judges by conveying the illusion that he is in control when he opens up with a flurry of punches. He dances about the ring for a few seconds to arouse the crowd and to remind the judges of who he is, hoping this will negate his all too frequent rest stops.

Ali is a shrewd manipulator. It is a formula he knows well and it comes in handy in other fights as his athletic skills deteriorate. His success in this regard is reflected by the official scoring. In a close contest that most observers (including the Associated Press) had dead even at the end of the 14th round, all three Filipino judges had Ali leading by a wide margin (8-5-1, 8-2-4, 9-3-2). The two New York Times sportswriters assigned to cover the fight had it just the opposite, with Frazier winning eight of the first 13 rounds.

Predictable Ebb and Flow

Irrespective of the off base scoring by the officials, there was a sloppy quality to the efforts of both men as they took their turns meting out punishment. It was this give and take aspect of the bout that many fans, still enthralled by the myth of the “Thrilla in Manila”, love to refer to as the “ebb and flow” of a great fight.

“Ebb and flow” is indeed one of the hallmarks of a great prizefight. However, that sterling quality must contain a sense of uncertainty. In this fight the “ebb and flow” becomes all too predictable.

When a tiring Ali decides to “ebb” against the ropes he allows Frazier to “flow” for up to a full minute without returning a meaningful counterpunch. When Ali is rested enough to come off the ropes and go on the offensive he will “flow” back for ten or fifteen seconds with a few swift arm punches before returning to the relative safety of the “rope-a-dope”. Ali is ever mindful of the pace and his own dwindling energy reserves. He appears stymied by Frazier’s seemingly limitless reserves of stamina, so he either clinches or retreats back to the ropes where the routine will start all over again. His efforts are never sustained enough to turn the tide of battle and swing the momentum back to him.

Ali has underestimated Frazier and overestimated his own ability to hurt this madman who seems intent on making him suffer. He is now paying the price for not coming into the ring in the best possible condition. The rope-a-dope strategy that worked so well against the stamina challenged George Foreman is not having the same effect on Frazier.

Hot Dog or Beer Anyone?

A great fight demands one’s attention every second. By the middle rounds, with the pattern of the fight firmly established, and the possibility of a sudden ending very remote, a fan who understood what was really going on could have walked out to the concession stand for a hot dog and beer, return to his seat several minutes later, and be unconcerned about having missed anything important.

Turning Point

After aggressively pursuing Ali throughout most of the fight Frazier finally begins to slow down in the 12th round. He has dished out a lot of punishment but he has also been pummeled. The oppressive heat and his relentless pace have used up most of his energy reserves. Joe’s fuel tank is running low. His punches, especially the hook, are now being thrown in a wide arc—a sure sign of serious fatigue.

Ali senses an opportunity and knows he must come on strong—it’s now or never. In the 13th round he digs deep into his own last resources of stamina and will power. The tide of battle turns as Ali lands several sharp punches that close Joe’s already damaged left eye (the one with the cataract). Making matters worse, Joe also sustains a cut over his right eye.

Now unable to see at all out of his left eye Joe’s posture changes. In attempting to locate the target for his hooks he turns his body towards the left (trying to see out of his rapidly swelling right eye) and straightens up. This is a recipe for disaster because Frazier cannot abandon his crouch and weave or he will be unable to get under and away from the taller man’s punches and then counter with his left hook. The exhausted half blind challenger becomes a sitting duck for Ali’s accurate right crosses.

Ali, aware that less than three rounds remain if the fight goes the full distance, musters every last ounce of strength to come off the ropes and try to end the fight. He moves to center ring and plants his feet to put maximum leverage into his punches.

There now appears to be, finally, a decisive and dramatic turning point in the fight. Yet, even at this juncture, considering what has happened over the past dozen rounds (not to mention in their two previous fights) the excitement generated by Ali’s sudden and sustained aggression is tinged, at least in this witness’s eyes, with an emotion bordering on sadness.

As I watched these two former giants of the ring struggle and suffer I could not help but compare what they once were to what they had now become.

Unless you were hopelessly enthralled by the Ali mystique it was not difficult to feel empathy for Joe Frazier at this point in the battle. He is so much the honest workman, always giving 120% effort, always trying his best with whatever weapons remain in his diminished arsenal. To slack off would have been so out of character.

In the entire fight, except for one brief moment in the 14th round, Joe never sought the refuge of a clinch, although no one would have faulted him if he had. The once durable fighting machine with the murderous left hook has, in this fight—even as he wins rounds—revealed himself to be a tarnished facsimile of the original. All this damaged warrior has left to battle with is his unconquerable fighting spirit. Beating up a tired old version of Joe Frazier was not the great accomplishment it’s made out to be by Ali’s army of frenzied sycophants.

The bell ending the 13th round is a welcome respite for both fighters.

Target Practice

Nothing much happens in the first two minutes of the 14th round as Frazier blindly charges and Ali clinches or retreats to the ropes as he gathers his resources for one last push. 

With only one minute left in the round Ali comes off the ropes and lands seven straight punches to Frazier’s jaw without a return, but Ali cannot put him down. Frazier awkwardly lunges with a left hook that misses. Their mutual exhaustion is apparent to the wildly cheering audience.

About 20 seconds before the bell sounds ending the round Ali lands two perfect right crosses to Frazier’s jaw but stubborn old Joe still will not go down! He is like a battered car in a demolition derby after the doors, fender and frame have been smashed to bits but whose motor simply will not quit.

Rounds 13 and 14 contained the only dramatic moments for this sad and unnecessary fight, during which time Ali took target practice on Joe’s head.

At the bell ending the 14th round both depleted warriors walk slowly back to their corners, battered but unbowed.

Joe’s trainer, Eddie Futch (who took over from the late Yank Durham two years earlier), realizes his fighter is virtually blind and cannot see the punches aimed at him. Three more minutes of repeated punishment to Joe’s unprotected head could have dire consequences. Over Joe’s fervent protests Futch decides it is in the best interest of his fighter to call a halt. Muhammad Ali, slumped in his corner in a state of near collapse, is awarded the technical knockout victory.

Bottom Line: A Seriously Flawed Fight

To their everlasting credit both men displayed the fighting spirit and never surrender attitude that is the inner core of every great champion. No matter if you rooted for Ali or Frazier it was this epic battle of wills that many impassioned fans focused on almost exclusively to the point of not knowing or caring about what else was taking place. But to say it was a great fight because of this battle of wills is to see only one aspect of a fight that, when viewed in its totality, was seriously flawed.

The “Thrilla in Manila” was damaged goods from the outset. It should never have happened. Until Ali began braying to the press that he wanted Joe one more time the public was not clamoring to see them fight a third time. Why dishonor the memory of that first magnificent classic with another fight staged four and a half years later between two over-the-hill legends? There was nothing left to prove. Mike Casey, one of boxing’s most astute and insightful historians, accurately described the fight as “a meeting of two decaying talents who were already treading a dangerous path when they clashed for the final time to beat the remaining resistance out of each other.” 

Some scribes, trying I suppose to see some purpose in all of this, wrote that no one could question Ali’s courage in a boxing ring after this fight. But why even ask the question? Ali had already proven his courage against the likes of Ken Norton, George Foreman, and in that unforgettable first bruising contest with “Smokin’ Joe”. 

In or out of shape Ali took on all comers throughout his career, fearlessly welcoming the challenge of every major heavyweight contender and champion of the 1960s and ‘70s. Very few heavyweights of any era could make the same boast.

Joe Frazier’s courage in a boxing ring had never been in doubt. He did not need this fight to prove anything, certainly not at this stage of his career. In fact, in many people’s eyes he had already beaten Ali twice. (Their forgettable second bout in January 1974, when both were ex-champs, was a weak imitation of the first, minus the controversy and drama. Ali was gifted with a 12-round decision that many fans and sportswriters thought he lost).

Joe would have done well to heed the advice of his friends and family who urged him to retire after his poor showing against Jimmy Ellis seven months earlier.

As for the most obvious excuse for staging this fight, that it provided a huge payday for both men, the price paid in exchange, in terms of physical damage, was far too great. Although it was an exhausted and drained Ali who famously said he felt “close to death” in the fight, it was really Joe Frazier who came out the worse for wear because he was already damaged and sick going into it.

The fight took plenty out of Ali too but not as much as people think. One year later he still had enough of the old skills, speed and reflex to eke out a close 15-round decision over top contender Ken Norton. (Most observers thought Norton won). Ali was in shape for that one. At 34 years old it would have been the ideal time for him to retire and never take another punch to the head.

What really finished off Ali as an effective fighter was a bout that took place two years after the “Thrilla”, in September 1977. Ali made the awful mistake of going into a fight with power punching Earnie Shavers overconfident and out of shape. In a fight he could have easily won if in proper condition (his belly fat hung over his trunks) Ali allowed the stamina challenged Shavers to control the pace of the fight. Ali’s timing and conditioning were atrocious. He was tagged numerous times by Shavers’s humongous brain jarring right hand punches.

Mesmerized boxing judges once again gifted “The Greatest” with another questionable 15-round decision. But the bout had taken a terrible toll on Ali’s health. He was subjected to the worst and most sustained head beating of his career by the hardest punching heavyweight in the world. That one fight caused more head trauma than all three Frazier bouts put together. Yet he continued to fight and train for another two years.

Separating Fact from Fiction

In the entire history of modern professional sports no athlete has generated as much controversy and has aroused as much partisan zeal as Muhammad Ali. The highly charged circumstances of the first Ali vs. Frazier fight in 1971 created a colossal drama that went far beyond the confines of a boxing ring as the divergent personalities and beliefs of each man became identified with different sides of the contentious political and social controversies of their era. Sides were taken and lines were drawn.

Four and a half years after that first and best Ali vs. Frazier bout many of those same fans were still passionate about Muhammad Ali, strongly identifying with his struggles and triumphs both inside and outside of the ring. To these devoted fans, many whose interest in boxing began with the rise of Ali, the man was nothing short of a demigod.

The media, never a trustworthy source, was also enamored of the colorful champion and loved the story of his comeback from the brink of defeat in “The Thrilla”. They helped to solidify the myth that it was the greatest heavyweight championship fight of all time. 

Ali’s win resulted in another ancillary benefit for the champ and his fans. The 1971 classic was pushed into the background even though “The Thrilla” did not come close to matching it in terms of quality, drama or historical significance.  What put “The Thrilla” over the top—and this is key—was that Ali had finally beaten his most persistent nemesis in a decisive manner. Thus “The Thrilla in Manila” became the most overrated boxing match in the history of the sport.

Boxing At Its Best

If I were to show a new boxing enthusiast a videotape of boxing at its best I would not choose “The Thrilla in Manila”. I would show a match that genuinely conveys the excitement and quality of a truly great prizefight. I might start with the aforementioned Marciano vs. Walcott title bout, or perhaps the amazing Archie Moore’s light heavyweight title defense against Yvonne Durelle in 1958, or one of my personal favorites, Tony Canzoneri’s 1933 defense of his featherweight crown against the fabulous Cuban, Kid Chocolate.

As an appetizer I might show Joe Louis’s knockout at the hands of Max Schmeling in 1936 and then follow it up with the incredible rematch two years later. Of course I would add Conn vs. Louis I to the list as well. Of more recent vintage is the first Alexis Arguello vs. Aaron Pryor war.

I would also have to include a performance by the greatest of the great—the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson. His stunning and dramatic come-from-behind victory over England’s Randy Turpin in 1951 speaks for itself. Want to see a great brawl minus the clinches? Check out both Carmen Basilio vs. Tony DeMarco fights of 1955. I could list many more. A new fan would not even have to be familiar with their names to appreciate the greatness of these fights.

Hopefully, in years to come, all of the above will still command the respect and attention they so justly deserve. The first Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier fight of 1971 belongs in this elite company. The “Thrilla in Manila” does not.

(Boxing historian Mike Silver is the author of “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science”.)

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Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier 3 FULL FIGHT Thrilla in Manilla

The Thriller in Manila part 1

The Thriller in Manila part 2

The Thriller in Manila part 3

The Thriller in manila part 4

The Thriller in manila part 5

The Thriller in manila part 6

The Thriller in Manila part 7

The Thriller in Manila part 8

The Thriller in Manila part 9

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  1. Jose 06:13pm, 12/20/2017

    I call BS. It’s clear the writer is trying to degrade Ali’s glorious win in the rubber match. The 3rd match was the best of the trilogy, Norton and other commentators were already calling it better than the first midway through the fight. Ali and Frazier actually landed and threw more punches than in the 1st fight. So many things mentioned here that is merely to try and downplay Ali’s win, like for example saying Frazier slowed down until the 12th when in reality he slowed down in the 10th. Ali won every round from 11 to 14. Frazier biased article.

  2. Matityahu 09:15pm, 07/22/2016


    Mr. Hansen’s point is well taken. You are the bigger ass.

  3. Mr T 04:34pm, 06/26/2016

    Lol the fact this guy brought up Rocky Marciano vs Joe Walcott shows this guy is white and a racist. Marciano was a overrated joke that racist white people love to pull out of their butts. Jersey Joe Walcott has been built up over the years to make Marciano seem like he beat somebody worth mentioning. Then you realize Walcott was past his prime had 16 loses already and was knocked out various times.

  4. Buster 06:38pm, 10/27/2015

    Just read this article. It is well thought out and reasoned. The previous comment is neither. If you are going to criticize it then make your case instead of attacking the author. Mr. Hansen, it is you who needs to get a grip. You are an ass.

  5. Jakob Hansen 03:20am, 09/04/2015

    ..what an uninformed, ignorant, attention-seeking pile of shit .. get a grip, Mike.

  6. Shoegood 08:58pm, 08/20/2015

    This article comes off as a little snobbish and contrarian to me.  In trying to make his point, I feel he points out a lot of the reason the fight is so well remembered.  Boxing doesn’t exist in a vacuum and neither do a boxer’s skills disguise the fact that it is (as someone has stated) legalized assault.  Yes the fight lags, so did all three Ali Frazier fights.  Even Douglas Tyson had more surface level excitement, but the core story: Frazier’s heart vs Ali’s Legend, is not negated by anything said here.  The quote that the fight should, ‘never have happened,’ begs the question, should any of them?  Should men fight for money?  They do, and in terms of historicity, and staying power, the Thrilla in Manilla has a legitimate claim to greatness.  I personally find the Godfather movies boring, but I don’t try and delegitimize their appeal.  The ‘working man,’ Frazier, vs the Golden Child Ali was (and here’s my chance to be pretensions) Vulcan vs Apollo.  Some of us will always root for Vulcan, because we can identify more with hard work than with otherworldly talent and smug self belief.  No offense meant, really, but I don’t think the author proves his point at all.  It just seems an attempt to tear down and obviously great fight to display a hipster’s superiorly deep field of knowledge.

  7. Tim 09:41pm, 07/15/2015

    Not sure how Mr Silver qualifies as a boxing expert but he is way off base on Ali-Frazier II. Not a “gifted decision”. I’ve watched that fight a dozen times. Frazier didn’t win 4 rounds.

  8. si 11:14am, 07/03/2015

    The fight in 1971 ’ Fight Of The Century’ was the superior fight to watch from a skill point of view and if you are a Frazier fan. Frazier fought the fight of his life at his peak and threw incredible knockout blows in every single round. That Ali was able to survive to the end was testament to his chin and conditioning. People in retrospect have stated that Ali was out of shape for this fight due to the 3 1/2 year lay off which is ridiculous. Frazier and Ali both started at an incredible pace and the first five rounds are in my opinion the greatest opening rounds to a heavy weight championship fight in the history of the sport. Frazier was able to maintain the pace throughout the fight and should have received more acclaim for winning. Instead most of the attention still went to Ali because of who he was and what he represented while Frazier was the champ but not the darling of the fans or media. Fraizer won the fight and deservedly so. However, there are so many people that love Ali that people forget to fondly remember a fight that had incredible skill and pace to it. Throughout the fight you can hear Archie Moore and the commentator stating how in awe they are at the pace and skill on display. It was a heavyweight fight fought at the pace of lighweights.

    By the time we get to the thrilla in manilla Ali and Frazier have declined but the decline in Fraizer is greater. He is blind in one eye . The thrilla is incredible because both fighters are past their best but still get themselves into condition to fight one last great fight. It shows a greater display of heart and personality and for Ali fans it is a triumph but the better fight to watch is the fight of the century if you are a neutral and are judging the fight in terms of boxing

  9. Phil 09:52am, 04/16/2015

    Your dislike of Ali shines through and no doubt colours your judgement of this fight.

    The ‘real name’ info stat is ugly, much like your article.

  10. Frank anders 12:50pm, 04/10/2015

    You can’t compare matches just by what you see but also the circumstances.  This. Fight was in 120 degree heat the first match was in well air-conditioned Madison’
    Square Garden.  These guys were truly close to death and still landing bombs.
    For that reason I think it was better than the other two.

  11. justloafing 06:39pm, 02/23/2015

    Billy Bob, You’re kidding me right about those boxers.. I think George Foreman won the Heavyweight Title when he was about 85 not too many years ago. That should tell you the caliber of the boxers these days.

  12. Billy Bob 01:13pm, 02/23/2015

    It’s amusing to me that Mike accuses the media of being misty-eyed romanticists, but he’s obviously guilty of the same thing. Boxing historians tend to be unwilling to do two things:

    1) Grant that it isn’t purely an American sport;

    2) Accept the fact that today’s fighters would pummel those of antiquity.

    There are many, many areas of the world where boxing is thriving, and even in the U.S. it isn’t dead. It has been marginalized, no question, but dismissing the modern era is ignorant.

    Moreover, stripping away the context of a fight and then declaring it overrated is idiotic. There are numerous rock’em, sock’em fights that carry no real import, and thus no one claims they are great.

    There’s a difference between a great fight and a Great fight. None of Ali’s 70s bouts was a great fight, imo, other than Frazier I. But the rubber match between the two certainly made Manila a Great fight. Arguing otherwise displays a particular myopia I hope I never succumb to.

  13. ian 06:26am, 06/02/2014

    Leo- your comment is a bulls eye regarding the Thrilla in Manilla. If a boxing match is rated on the athletes maximum skills- then I guess anyone over 23-24 should simply retire. I guess experience does not mean that much and those boxing fans that are amazed how Bernard Hopkins can do what he does at almost 50 years of age are basically clueless.  You can put me into this “clueless” category.

    The fact that Ali/Frazier 3 was fought in 3 digit heat with intense humidity, the fact that both men delivered vicious punches and the fact that both men took those punches without going down, and the fact that both men were beyond exhausted should not be admired by the fans.  This was a fight that ended up where Frazier could not see anymore and Ali’s body was destroyed- yet they continued round after round.  Please name other boxers that could have lasted in such conditions.

    Here is a reality check- other boxers would have been knocked out by the hooks Frazier was landing and other boxers would have been TKO’ed by the punishment Ali delivered.

    One last comment- both men should have retired after this fight- nobody can be punished the way these 2 guys were punished and not have permanent after effects.

  14. leo 12:44am, 06/02/2014

    I have been to the phils 3 times and heat is unbelievable. What makes this fight so amazing is that they somehow endured 14rds in 100 plus degree temps while beating on each other…both were willing to risk their lives to win. Ali would be in much better shape if he had retired after foreman fight…this writer is full of shit for thinking shavers did more damage to ali than frazier did. Both guys were great champions and real warriors but they both shouldve retired before manila. Smoke might still be alive and ali might still be able to run his mouth

  15. perry 11:53am, 05/29/2014

    Another point is the list of bouts from the 70s the author mentions that were better more exciting bouts….of the list only the last two I did not see live.  Of the ones I did see only one was anywhere close to this bout in terms of excitement or any other parameter you want to measure them by.  Leonard vs Benitez as an example was a boring affair.  Although the scoring was close watching the bout you did not get that impression. The Monzon and Duran bouts were boringone sided fights.  Franklin Lopez was exciting for sure but Lopez never was able to win the big one.  Also saying Ali layed against the ropes for 15 minutes of the fighttaking punishment is a huge mis statement.  First Ali fought back with both hands many points in time as he was forced to the ropes by Joe.  You also fail to mention that Ali spent much time in fight one on the ropes NOT fighting back.

  16. perry 09:25am, 05/28/2014

    Both Ali and Frazier weighed in for this bout like 5 days before the bout took place.  Both men came in more than likely lighter than the quoted weights.  The claim Ali was not in great shape or did not train seriously for this fight is a flat out lie.  Ali was in the best shape of his post Foreman career…he trained like a man possessed for this bout.  Watch the post fight interview. ...Ali states if he was not in such great shape he “would have definitely lost”.

  17. Eddiedrumz 08:52am, 05/28/2014

    I am not sure if this article was meant to draw attention to Silver—but to say this fight was overrated, is utterly ridiculous.  Saw the fight that night at a closed circuit movie theater—and many times afterwards.  Ali & Frazier were not fighting for the HWC of the world—they were fighting for the championship between Ali vs. Frazier.  The socio-political backdrop was Ali turning up the racism against another black man.  Their first fight was better because of the drama of 2 HWC’s undefeated fighting for the title Ali was stripped of.  While the first fight was a better technical fight—the sheer brutality and and violence was higher in the Thrila in Manila.  Mr. Silver, may I ask you when you saw this fight—were you in an altered state of mind? Because you are the only person I ever heard or state that this fight was overrated.  Tell me, sir, what fights do you think were historically better. Can’t wait to get you answer to my email I sent you so I can laugh at you.

  18. Samuel Scott 09:21pm, 04/03/2014

    As long as i live i will say “The Thrilla in Manilla” is one of the greatest fights ever fought. I would also say that it was better than their first fight even though the first one was better from a technical sense. What you overlook, or willfully ignore, in regard to Ali-Frazier III is the backdrop to the fight. The animosity, tumult and tension leading up to this near death match is unparalleled. To simply brush over it is irresponsible. Secondly, the fight was fought under extreme, unique conditions that will probably never be allowed again. Thirdly, from a strictly technical point of view, this is still an all time great fight if one understands the greatness of the two combatants. On the one hand we have Joe Frazier, an all-time great heavyweight who only lost to Foreman and Ali. Frazier was a boxer with one of the greatest hearts and left hooks of all time and without a doubt one of the toughest guys to ever have stepped in a boxing ring. Then you have Ali. Granted an Ali passed his prime, but an Ali as tough, smart and determined as ever. As for drama? You’re going to tell me that when Ali in the 13th round, when it looked like he was dead a couple rounds earlier, comes out from his corner and knocks Joe Frazier’s mouthpiece into the 6th row isn’t sufficient drama? The fact that after this Joe Frazier keeps coming forward blind out of pure hatred of Ali. The fact that the fight ended with one of boxing’s most memorable quotes: ‘Sit down, son,’ Eddie said. ‘It’s over. No one will forget what you did here today.’ On a final note, Bob Arum, who one could say has seen a lot of prize fights in his day, says Ali-Frazier III was the best he ever saw.

  19. ian 08:04am, 04/01/2014

    There is no doubt that the fight of the century was made up of 2 superior fighters- but the thrilla in manilla had inhumane heat, inhumane hate, and the end result was both fighters were far more hurt then the 1st fight.

    As for those who think they know how to score a fight- how do you compare more punches to powerful punches? How do you compare body shots to head shot?  The bottom line is the Thrilla in Manilla was a draw- Ali would not have made it out for the 15th round and Eddie Futch might very well have saved Joe’s life. 

    Regardless- for a 31 and 33 year old men to do what they did that night was beyond magnificient.

  20. Conrad 08:05am, 03/13/2014

    This is a well thought out article.  I have always thought the Fight of the Century was FAR superior to the Thrilla in Manila.  Not only were both fighters much closer to their primes but the events surrounding it were something we will never see again. Two undefeated fighters with the right to both make claim they are the champion of the world.  There is a lot of hype in boxing about a ‘superfight”.  They come up just about every year BUT nothing will every surpass the Fight of the Century between Frazier and Ali in 1971.  So why isn’t that fight recognized as highly?  Mike hits the nail on the head when he says its because Ali had finally beaten his nemesis! If Ali had won the Fight of the Century and Frazier had won the Thrilla in Manila does anyone really think the Thrilla would be rated higher?  If you do I have swamp land in Florida to sell you.  This is all about the MYTH of Ali, his perceived greatness.  He was a great fighter you can’t take that from him BUT he LOST the biggest fight of all time when Frazier beat him and knocked him down in the Fight of the Century.  Manila became what it was to enchance the myth.  Don’t get me wrong it was a great fight but not because of the skills which were so much better in 1971 but because of the heart both fighters displayed, mainly because their skills were only bursts of what they were in 1971.  Yet because Ali won it was so important to his legend to finally beat Frazier.  Frazier clearly won the first fight.  I scored the second fight a draw and what people so often forget is that Ali was the one who made that fight so uninspiring by constantly using slap and grab methods.  He grabbed and clinched Frazier 122 times in that fight.  A referee like Miles Lane would have penalized him for the persistent holding tactics but as always referees tended to be in awe of doing an Ali fight and Perez did nothing about the constant repeated grabbing.  As for what would have happened had there been a 15th round in Manila, that open for speculation.  According to one of Ali’s cornermen Ali did mumble “cut the gloves off” and he also did say later that “frazier quit just before I would have.”  He also collapsed in his corner after it was announced that the fight was over.  People think that just because Ali pounded Frazier in the 13 & 14th round more was coming in the 15th.  But Ali was now completely punched out, he had nothing left.  One of Frazier’s stable mates Willie Munroe sitting near Ali’s corner and seeing what was going on tried to wave off to Eddie Fitch not to stop the fight. Its interesting that even in the end a blinded Frazier is trying to keep Futch from stopping the fight and Ali the man who clearly seems to now be in control is considering quitting.  But again this is often ignored as part of the ALI legend.

  21. Douglas E. CURRAN 08:26pm, 12/20/2013

    Finally, thank you, FINALLY….  Indeed Ali-Frazier I was the superior clash…  and the cultural implications far more seismic.  Thanks again!

  22. Matt 10:47am, 09/14/2013

    Hard for me to believe this is not one of the greatest fights of all times.  It had everything.  Two great boxers, highly competitive heavy weight division at the time, extreme conditions for the fight and a huge rivalry.

    I have read many places about the conditions in Araneta Coliseum.  I have seen different readings about the temperature any where from 90 - 110 at the time of the fight with 99% humidity.  Joe Frazier said once all the television lights were turned on it was 125. Muhammad Ali lost 5 pounds of water weight during the fight.  Imagine losing 5 pounds of water in 1 hour. Then these two men put on a boxing show like they did.  Incredible. No doubt that after this fight neither man was ever the same.

    Give me a break with the Smith- Jones comparison.  No one ever remembers the Smith - Jones fight because they are nobody’s.  These two men (Ali/Frazier) had a fantastic rivalry.  They brought out the best in each other.  That is why this 3rd and final fight was great.  I not need to even bring in styles or how they both had mastered the sport.

    I can watch this fight over and over and every time I see something new.  How can you not?  The fight lived up to the hype and succeeded the hype.  It was one of the most outstanding fights ever.

  23. Perry 11:42am, 05/05/2013

    This article is an example of revisionism in it’s worse for.  Either the article was written purposefully to gain the author recognition based on a crazy premise or the author is young and inexperienced.  I say it’s a mixture of both.  One of the greatest hwt championship fights I have ever witnessed.  I’ve been to many championship fights and the crowd that watched this bout with me was as excited of the action in the ring as I ave ever seen….that’s watching these fights since 1971 mind you.  Far more excited response from the audience than their first encounter.  The author really should be ashamed of himself producing such a document that is no more than a heap of crap.

  24. loulor 11:22am, 05/05/2013

    AUTHOR:  ” What if the fighters involved were not named Ali and Frazier….”
    ——————————————————————————————————-But they were Ali and Frazier, the two greatest heavyweights of their time.  Stupid premise.

    Same thing for the second question——- had Ali lost….....”

    Had Frazier won that war in the same fashion as Ali did, it would have indeed gone down as one of the greatest—if not THE greatest—fight ever.

  25. Bill_Trowsdale 08:21am, 03/10/2013

    Agreed, I’ve always thought this fight was somewhat overrated.  It had its moments, but there was a lot of clinching and crowding, and not nearly as much crisp boxing as you’d expect in a “greatest ever” fight.

    The 1971 “Fight of the Century” remains the gold standard for the Ali-Frazier trilogy.  Great shots landed in that one, both guys were quicker then (indeed, Frazier was so busted up in that 1971 fight that he only fought 10 more times, barely winning half of them!  And he was only 27 in 1971)

    In fact, if you want to check out some truly exciting heavyweight action from 1975, check out these fights.  Far more exciting, if shorter:

    Lyle vs Shavers
    Norton vs Garcia
    Norton vs Quarry

  26. Zman 06:43pm, 03/04/2013

    Mike Silver - You cannot be serious when you make the argument that if Marciano and Walcott “were Smith and Jones” it would still be remembered as a great whom?  Any fight that is remembered and listed as an all time great has elite or great fighters in it. We all have watched action packed and thrilling fights by not so well known fighters but they are not on anyone’s list of all time greats. I agree with your assessment that Ali Frazier I was a better fight than the Thrilla in Manila. However your diatribe against Ali reeks of your dislike for the man getting in the way of a balanced perspective of the fight itself. And just like Smith and Jones this article and you will quickly be forgotten.

  27. Don from Prov 06:29pm, 02/23/2013

    Much or most of what the article says may be true—

    But the “I’d stop and watch it again” test: Passes every time for me
    Good call by Ted on how overlooked Holmes/Norton was

  28. Ryan 04:50am, 02/19/2013

    I watched the Carmen Basilio vs. Tony DeMarco fight not long ago and his fight against Sugar Ray Robinson (sure that got fight of the year!?) on ESPN Classic me and my dad were gobsmacked unbelievable fights!
    Brilliant article too!

  29. perry 07:03pm, 02/18/2013

    Also…Ali was in great shape for this fight.  After the bout Ali stated….“I had a great camp training for this fight.  If I was not in such great shape I would have definitely lost.”

  30. perry 06:59pm, 02/18/2013

    I disagree with the entire article.  With the word “revisionism” mentioned various times by those that are commenting this article is the height of just that.  First you must have lived through that time to understand the anticipation everyone had concerning this bout.  It’s the fight everyone wanted.  he fight was held under brutal conditions akin to the legendary Jeffries-Sharkey bout at Coney Island.  Third the fight WAS close by anyone who knows how to score a fight.  Ali won 4 out of the first 5 rounds and Joe came back and won 4 out of the next five.  He then won the 11th with the 12th being very close.  You can throw the judges cards out the window.  I watched the fight live and if anyone here could have listened to the roars from the crowd as one then the other fighter surged round after round..I have never heard such excitement from a live crowd for any hwt championship fight before or since.

  31. Robert Umeck 09:35am, 01/06/2013

    This is a well-written article with much forethought and opinion.  What is lost is the fact that both Ali and Frazier were two of the greatest heavyweights ever each with something unique—Frazier with that left hook and tremendous stamina and Ali with the fast hands and ability to take a murderous punch.  Their styles made this fight and it was a great fight.  No knowledgeable writer claims that it was the greatest fight and it didn’t compare to Ali-Frazier I in its meaning and electricity but the electricity and anxiety that it produced were as great, if not greater, than some of the fights you mentioned such as Robinson-Turpin 2 or Basilio-DeMarco.  Comparing this fight to other great fights in different ways might be a little unfair to both Frazier and Ali.  I don’t know if Ali was"out-of-shape” or intended to weigh more and trained hard at the higher weight simply because of aging and attempting to be stronger.  This was a great fight.  Now there were probably greater fights, as you say, but not even included those you mentioned which no one knows about or cares about.  People cared about this fight and as Dundee said, “Styles make good fights.”

  32. Eric 02:52pm, 11/19/2012

    Count me in as one of those who feel that the third and final meeting between Ali and Frazier doesn’t top their first bout. Matt Franklin aka Saad Muhammad did indeed have some thrilling fights in the Seventies as well as early Eighties that were every bit as good as the Thrilla in Manila or better. His two meetings against Marvin Johnson are classics, and what about Ron Lyle vs Earnie Shavers or who can forget the Ron Lyle vs George Foreman pier six brawl. I would actually score the Holmes vs Norton bout as a more exciting bout over the Thrilla in Manila.

  33. Eric Jorgensen 01:44pm, 11/15/2012

    Great article, Mike, as always.  I would like to raise 2 points.

    The first concerns the revisionist history being touted lately about Ali supposedly having been about to quit after the 14th round.  Nonsense.  He’d been absolutely shellacking Frazier for 6 minutes and, had Joe ventured out for the 15th,  would have continued shellacking him for another minute or so more ... until either Joe collapsed or the referee stepped in.  I’ve watched that tape many times and I’ve never seen the moment, imagined in retrospect by Frazier fans, where tells Dundee to cut off his gloves.  Come on, does anybody who knows anything about boxing, and who is even remotely familiar with Ali’s career, think that Ali would ever have done that?  Especially at that point, when he was having everything his own way?  No way. 

    The second point relates to the Shavers fight.  I think there’s a good argument that based just on the fight itself, Shavers deserved the nod.  Very close either way.  Remember, though, that ABC was reporting the judge’s scores at the end of each round, which scores were being reported to Dundee and then to Ali.  Whether he should have been ahead or not is a different question.  The fact is, Ali was being told he was ahead throughout the fight and fought accordingly, as he should have done.  Who knows how differently he would have conducted himself had he not known where he stood on the cards?  Under those circumstanes, I think it is very hard to say he didn’t deserve the decision.

    My two cents anyway.

  34. James 07:04am, 11/14/2012

    Overrated like many Ali fights, exception being their first fight as you say was the best of trilogy.
    Hit & run, rope-a-dope, clinching all called tactics by the Ali faithful. They might as well have handcuffed Joe.
    Ali ‘s record was made to look better with some questionable decisions Norton 3, Jimmy Young.
    He is universally regarded as greatest heavyweight of all time but I don’t see it.
    Joe Louis was a far better technical fighter by far, Rocky Marciano was undefeated, Larry Holmes underrated along with some other modern heavyweights.
    Of course this is just my personal opinion.

  35. Norm Marcus 05:53am, 10/06/2012

    A very good read Mike. The “Thriller in Manilla” has long been taken over by the fawning Ali media. There is an old saying that one of my journalism professors told me 40 years ago and I never forgot it. “When legend becomes fact, print the legend.” They print this hype over and over again, until they believe it themselves and the truth is lost. Sad.

  36. Tex Hassler 06:41pm, 10/05/2012

    The first Ali - Frazier fight was the greatest fight of the three times they met. They both would have been far better off to have retired before the “Thrilla in Manilla.” I agree with Mike Silver that the third fight is vastly overrated. The Holmes vs Norton fight was a great fight that fails to get much publicity today.

  37. andrew 03:17pm, 10/04/2012

    thanx for the kennedy info..very kind of u

  38. pete 02:05pm, 10/04/2012

    An exhaustive, definitve and well-thought out article. It’s interesting—many of us might not have liked Ali, but we’re still talking and writing about him.  I, for one, believe Ali was “gifted” many fights. Nevertheless, his character (both inside and outside of the ring), more than his boxing skills, is what fascinated me.

  39. Mike Silver 01:08pm, 10/04/2012

    The John F. Kennedy quote is from a commencement address he gave at Yale University in 1962. The complete speech can be found online and at the Kennedy Library site.

  40. Jethro's Flute 08:38am, 10/04/2012

    It’s fair enough to expose the myth of ‘The Thrilla in Manila’ but to then put your own myths in its place is simply daft.

    It wasn’t a close fight at all.

    The most obvious proof is that Joe Frazier, well documented as being fitter than Ali in the fight, tired long before Ali did and was virtually defenceless in rounds 13 and 14.

  41. andrew 08:25am, 10/04/2012

    where did u get that J.F.K quote…it was amazing. i’d love to have a copy of that book. please let me know…thanx…Andrew

  42. andrew 08:22am, 10/04/2012

    why does everything have to have a” best,“or” top 10 “or” my favorite.”. i’m too old for that..its kind of childish. It was an entertaining fight. The myth was created after the fact, when Ali stated he came close to dying, it made people look at it in a different, however, warped way.

  43. tuxtucis 12:18am, 10/04/2012

    My opinion watching Alì-Frazier II and III on dvd:
    Alì-Frazier II very very close match, virtually a draw…it’s true judges changed 4 draws in 4 matches won for Alì: Norton II, Frazier II, Young and Shavers. Norton III was not even close…
    But please don’ tell me Alì-Frazier III was a close fight. Alì was far ahead: rounds 13 and 14 , even withouth knockdowns, were 10-8 for Alì...

  44. Jethro's Flute 02:06pm, 10/03/2012

    “Ali was gifted with a 12-round decision that many fans and sportswriters thought he lost.”

    That’s interesting. Most people that I know of, including me, think Ali won the second match soundly and I have the match on tape. Most obituaries that I read of Joe Frazier also noted this.

    The ‘Thrilla’ is highly overrated, all the same. It wasn’t close on the scorecards when it was stopped and that was deserved. When I bought the match on DVD, I was amazed how one-sided it was in Ali’s favour. The DVD I bought also came with a contemporary newspaper report that said Frazier was only on top when Ali was taking a breather.

    Frazier was in a terrible state in round 13 and 14 and Ali was hitting him at will. The reason that he was in such a state despite being fitter than Ali going into the match is because Ali gave him quite a kicking.

  45. Mike Silver 05:39pm, 10/02/2012

    Thanks guys. Your feedback is appreciated.

  46. Rob 11:23am, 10/02/2012

    Thanks Mr. Silver for a great read! This article is the perfect example of why I recommend this site to both people that I know are boxing freaks and people I know are boxing casuals; because of articles like this that help put fights into perspective. When you guys are done with the rankings (polls) you should do a poll of the greatest fights (of all time and of this era) so that casuals can get some much needed insight and perspective to what they are watching. Plus I would love to know what fights of this era you would rank with these great fights (Trinidad vs Vargas comes to mind).

  47. Bob 04:03am, 10/02/2012

    Reggie Jackson was the recipient of lots of over mythology in baseball.  He hit a lot of home runs, such as the three in one World Series game, but they never seemed to come in the clutch. His heroics always seemed to occur when his team was already ahead and there was little or no pressure.

  48. tuxtucis 12:03am, 10/02/2012

    Well probably that’s not the only famous heavyweight title fight to be overrated…The same can be said about the only other match maybe more praised than the Thrilla in Manila, the Dempsey-Firpo fight…was that a beautiful fight? Not it was the carnage of a slow South American giant interrupted by a punch-shove that threw the champ out of the ring…

  49. Bob 06:02pm, 10/01/2012

    Mike Silver once again separates fact from fiction in his typical inimitable fashion. Always great to hear his unique voice. He tells it like it is, sacred cows be damned.

  50. the thresher 08:46am, 10/01/2012

    Irish Frankie has the beat

  51. the thresher 08:17am, 10/01/2012

    “Mike Casey, one of boxing’s most astute and insightful historians, accurately described the fight as ‘a meeting of two decaying talents who were already treading a dangerous path when they clashed for the final time to beat the remaining resistance out of each other.’” 

    Brilliant stuff

  52. the thresher 08:15am, 10/01/2012

    I have never worshiped at the Shrine of Ali. Louis-yes. Ali-no. But both trancended boxing.

    Tom Hauser did much to glorify Ali, though he did it in a reasonably balanced manner, but when you write about someone you worship, bias can sneak into the accounts. The thing I liked best about Ali was that he fought everybody, but did he ever pay for it. An American tragedy.

  53. Mike Casey 07:08am, 10/01/2012

    Excellent article, Mike. I’ve said for years that the Fight of the Century between Joe and Muhammad was the top quality fight of the trilogy. It was a beautiful fight. Manila was a war of attrition and I won’t pretend I didn’t enjoy it immensely. But it was still the ugly sister of their first New York classic and spawned the age of hyperbole gone mad. Irish Frankie’s opening comment here sums it up very succinctly!

  54. Pete The Sneak 06:38am, 10/01/2012

    Awesome read Mr. Silver. I too am one of those that, although I enjoyed the Thrilla, did not rate and/or ever thought of it as the greatest heavyweight fight ever. Heck, in my humble opinion, I think the Holyfield/Lewis fights, Bowe/Holyfield tussles, and even the Holmes/Norton heavyweight fight were just as action packed for my money than was the Thrilla. Obviously, because of the names involved (Ali/Frazier) and the way the fight ended, it was taken to another stratosphere by the then media, who were still in total awe of Ali after he ‘shook up the world’ again by beating the ‘invincible’ George Foreman. It was a good heavyweight fight magnified by 2 great names no longer in their prime. Thanks for putting it in perspective sir. Peace.

  55. the thresher 06:04am, 10/01/2012

    “Unlike his less discerning modern-day counterparts, Jimmy Cannon would not have been caught up in the exaggerated hyperbole of Ali vs. Frazier III. He had an exacting eye for the truth and x-ray vision for seeing past the layers of baloney and insipid commentary that too often attend this once great sport. He also had been watching and analyzing fights since the 1930s so his frame of reference and perception reflected that experience.”

    Nicely said, Mike.

  56. the thresher 06:00am, 10/01/2012

    It’s articles like this that make me proud to be a part of Mike has a great way of taking apart commnly held assumptions and then peeling the onion to reveal other possible persepectives. I’ll re-read this and comment again and again.

  57. Matt McGrain 05:35am, 10/01/2012

    Love, love the opening quote.

    I do think that this was a special fight, however.  I agree with you that Ali’s victory was perhaps neccessary to make it legend - but is that a negative?  It is the final realisation of the Heart of one of the sports greatest ever champions.  Both were by the time of the fight diminshed fighters, nothing like as special as they were in their primes, but this, perhaps, is why both fight so hard to hold.  “It’s either him or me.”  This was Frazier’s battle-cry pre-fight and that is what both men showed us in the ring.

    I personally haven’t seen that in very many fights in colour.  If any.

  58. Rolling Thunder 04:37am, 10/01/2012

    Mr Silver, thanks for putting things into much needed perspective.  Yes it was as unfortunate as unfair that Ali was suspended on dubious Vietnam-war-related grounds. However, the post-suspension Ali is pretty far from an all time great as far as I am concerned. Just try to compare him to a prime Roberto Duran et al. As far as the Ali persona goes, he is certainly even further away from qualifying as an all time great, but that’s a different story that has been superbly told on this supreme boxing website.

  59. Joe 04:15am, 10/01/2012

    I stop to watch every single time it appears on ESPN Classic - and every other Ali fight for that matter.  As far as the “Thrilla” is concerned, I only turn away if I happen to catch it during the middle round phase.  For the record, I am an Ali fan / loyalist / whatever you want to call me.  Both Smoke and The Greatest were great champions.

  60. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 03:06am, 10/01/2012

    Mike Silver-Thanks for cutting through 37 years of bullshit!

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