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'Thriller in Manila': Docu on Ali-Frazier fight, greatest boxing bout in history

September 3, 2012 9:15pm
Thirty-seven years after the historic last fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, GMA News TV looks back on what is regarded as the greatest boxing match in history with the documentary “Thriller in Manila” airing on September 30, and the actual fight “Thrilla in Manila” airing on October 7.

“Thriller in Manila” tells the story of the deep-seated feud between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, leading to their third and final confrontation inside the boxing ring in Manila on September 30, 1975. Theirs was a personal hatred born out of the explosive racial politics of 1970s America. Yet, eight years earlier, these two men had been friends.
In 1967, Muhammad Ali became a conscientious objector and refused to fight in the Vietnam War. He was subsequently stripped of his heavyweight title and license to box. The boxing establishment and much of mainstream America held Ali’s decision in contempt. But Joe Frazier, who took Ali’s vacant heavyweight crown, stood by him, respecting his courageous religious beliefs and even petitionedWashington to get his license back. 
In 1971, after three and half years in the wilderness, Ali got his license back but dramatically turned on his one time friend and ally, Joe Frazier.
They were two men caught in a battle for the soul of black America. While Frazier was being backed by white businessmen, Ali was being backed by the black militant organization, the Nation of Islam. Ali was the mouthpiece for this religious group and portrayed Frazier as a traitor to the black community. It was an insult that cut to the core of his being.
Fueled by emotional drama, the “Thrilla in Manila” match would prove to be the greatest heavyweight bout of all time. The fight lasted 14 rounds with the advantage continually shifting between the two heavyweights as both men hit each other with a relentless savagery.
Towards the end of the fight, Frazier, who only had vision in one eye, was virtually blind as his good eye swelled up and closed. Ali was also exhausted and neither seemed able to fight the final round. It was Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch who finally called an end to the fight despite his protests. Ali had won, but Frazier had gained his respect. Ali would later say, “If God ever calls me to a holy war, I want Joe Frazier fighting beside me.”
The documentary “Thriller in Manila” airs on September 30, Sunday, 10 PM. A week after, on October 7, Sunday, 10PM, coverage of the actual fight “Thrilla in Manila” airs on GMA News TV Channel 11. -- HS, GMA News
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