Who won the ‘Thrilla in Manila’?
For those uninitiated, the bout billed as the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ was a trilogy fight between Muhammad Ali and ‘Smokin” Joe Frazier staged in Metropolitan Manila, the National Capital Region of the Phillipines, on October 1, 1975. It is almost universally regarded as one of the greatest, and most unrelenting, fights in boxing history. Incidentally, the catchphrase was derived from a line of trash talk delivered in the build-up to the fight; he said, ‘It’s gonna be a chilla, and a killa, and a thrilla, when I fight the Gorilla in Manila.’
Ali and Frazier had boxed against each other twice before. At the time of their first fight, the so-called ‘Fight of the Century’ at Madison Square Garden, New York on March 8, 1971, Frazier was undisputed heavyweight champion of the world; he won by unanimous decision, having knocked Ali down at the start of the final round. However, Frazier lost his titles to George Foreman in the so-called ‘Sunshine Showdown’ in Kingston, Jamaica on January 22, 1973, so the rematch between Ali and Frazier, ‘Super Fight II, also at Madison Square Garden, on January 28, 1974 was a non-title fight; Ali won by unanimous decision, despite constantly holding Frazier behind the neck to render him ineffective.
Ali subsequently knocked out Foreman in the iconic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Kinshasa, Zaire on October 30, 1974 so, after three successful defences, headed to the Phillipines as undisputed world heavyweight champion. In any event, Ali won, by technical knockout when Frazier was retired, against his wishes, by his trainer, Eddie Futch, at the end of the fourteenth round. It was a close call, though; Ali said later, ‘Frazier quit just before I did. I didn’t think I could fight any more.’