Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali III –The Thrilla in Manilla

Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali III –The Thrilla in Manilla

By: Boxing Writer Scott Canipe

“They weren’t really fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world in Manilla, they were fighting for the heavyweight championship of each other.”– Thomas Hauser, Muhammad Ali’s biographer

On October 1, 1975, a brutal display of skill and will was showcased before the world in the highly anticipated rubber match between “Smokin” Joe Frazier and the self proclaimed “Greatest” Muhammad Ali. The location in which this momentous event took place was at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. Quezon City is situated in the metropolis of Manila, Philippines. This was the third and final installment of a great fight series between the two men. With this encounter, they left their indelible mark on the boxing world and sport’s history at large.

Ali would verbally attack Frazier by vilifying him with derogatory remarks. Denunciatory comments were typical of something that Ali would always spew against his opponents, but never with the same intensity as he did with Joe Frazier.

In this third fight, Ali disdainfully nicknamed him “The Gorilla.” He mocked Frazier, calling him “a flat nose, ugly pug.” This wasn’t the first time that Ali verbally humiliated Joe Frazier. He had previously referred to him as an “uncle Tom,” which is the highest insult that any African-American could label a fellow African-American. Frazier’s response was, “I want to hurt him. I don’t want to knock him out. I want to take his heart out.” Ali provoked such an acrimonious feud with Joe Frazier, that later in life Frazier feels Ali’s Parkinson’s syndrome is a direct result of the insults that he received from him.

Eight years earlier, Muhammad Ali was exiled from boxing because of his refusal to join the Armed Forces to fight in the Vietnam War. Joe Frazier reached out to help Ali in getting his boxing license reinstated. Frazier, also, gave Ali some financial assistance and he even went to the White House to meet President Nixon to petition for his right to fight. In return, Muhammad Ali utterly lambasted Joe Frazier. Frazier was shocked and could not believe the reciprocal ill-treatment. Frazier’s bitterness and disdain began to foment against Ali.

Previously, they engaged in 2 fights with each other. Frazier was triumphant in the first one and Ali taking the second one. However, this encounter would be the last time the Joe Frazier could unleash all of his bitterness, contempt, and fury upon the man who reviled him, mocked him, and challenged his dignity as a human being in general. It is reported that Joe Frazier trained harder for this fight than he did for any past boxing match.

How They Matched Up

MUHAMMAD ALIAli won the 1960 Olympic gold-medal in Rome, Itlay. He originally won the World Heavyweight Championship on February 25th, 1964. Ali defended his title successfully for nine times and then he was stripped because he refused to be inducted in the United States Armed Forces draft due to religious purposes. After a 3 1/2 year hiatus from boxing, Ali came back in boxing, had some monumental matches, was beaten soundly by Joe Frazier in their first encounter, and then he defeated George Foreman in Zaire to reclaim the crown.

  • Record: 48-2 (35 KO)
  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 224½
  • Reach: 80″
  • Notable opponents faced: Joe Frazier W UD 15; Ken Norton W SD 12; Ron Lyle TKO 11; Sonny Liston  W KO 1


JOE FRAZIER Joe Frazier was a former Olympic champion and winning the gold medal in the 1964 Olympics. He won the World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Jimmy Ellis on February 16, 1970. He defended it successfully four times before getting knocked out by George Foreman in the second round. After four more fights he was ready to take on Ali in this third and last encounter.

  • Record: 32-2 (27 KO)
  • Age: 31
  • Height: 5’11½”
  • Weight: 215 ½
  • Reach: 73″
  • Notable opponents faced: Muhammad Ali W UD 15 ; Jerry Quarry W TKO 5; George Foreman L TKO by 2; Oscar Bonavena W UD 12


The Fight

In the morning, beginning at 10:45 AM, 28,000 people packed the Araneta Coliseum and millions of people from around the world tuned in to witness this tremendous stylistic matchup between a graceful, scientific technician versus a tough, unstoppable slugger.

Frazier, typically a slow starter, was met by an Ali who was connecting with stinging jabs and right hands, controlling the distance. At the end of the first round, Ali catches Frazier with a left hook as he is coming straight in. Frazier is staggered but continues to come forward. This trend continued throughout the first four rounds with Ali landing the cleaner blows. But in the fifth round, the tide turned as Joe Frazier connected with his patented left hook. Now the momentum shifted to Frazier’s favor.

Ali begins to tire and Frazier begins to pour on the smoke. Frazier keeps coming forward bobbing and weaving and landing an assortment of powerful left hooks and body shots. Ali tries to incorporate his famous “rope-a-dope,” but in actuality it gives Frazier a greater target as he lands shots to the body and arms of Ali. At times, Ali lands in furious exchanges, but Frazier wins the middle rounds.

In the 10th round, both men are visibly fatigued, but Ali begins to come back. It is back and forth action, but Frazier gets the worst of the exchanges. He refuses to quit, but by the 14th round Joe Frazier’s eyes are virtually closed. Trainer Eddie Futch stops the fight and will not allow Frazier to enter into the 15th round. Muhammad Ali wins.

Ali collapsed in his corner and was ready to quit himself. These two legends gave everything they had in a highly contested fight. It was very close with Ali slightly ahead in the scoring, but you could never count Joe Frazier out, and who knows what could have happened had there been a 15th round. Both combatants were battered with swelling, hematomas, and bruises.

Ali stated of the fight, “It was like death. Closest thing to dying that I know of.” Joe Frazier gave Muhammad Ali his due credit by saying,“Man, I hit him with punches that’d bring down the walls of a city. Lawdy, lawdy, he’s a great champion.”

The Aftermath

Ali received approximately $6 million for the fight. Joe’s purse was around $3 million.

In 1999, ESPN’s SportsCentury ranked the fight as the 5th greatest sporting event of all the 20th century.

It was a spectacular conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies in boxing history. The Thrilla in Manilla is considered to be one of the most brutal bouts fueled by animosity.

Ali would fight for another six years over the course of 10 fights, he would lose and then recapture the championship becoming the first man in history to win the heavyweight championship three times. Muhammad Ali retired in 1981. Today, Ali has sold 80% of the use of his name for commercial purposes and he remains in a prominent financial standing at 70 years of age.

Joe Frazier would fight another two times losing to George Foreman in a rematch and finally retire in 1981. Although he left the ring, Joe remained active in boxing by owning and operating a gym in Philadelphia, Pa. He made himself available to young fighters, assisting them as they began their boxing careers. Joe Frazier passed away on November 7, 2011.

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