Four decades after ‘Thrilla in Manila’: Filipinos pay tribute to Ali

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Thrilla in ManilaAlmost 41 years after one of the most memorable boxing fights ever and arguably one of the best in the sport’s history, Filipinos in the boxing-crazy nation on June 4 paid tribute to Muhammad Ali, three-time heavyweight champion and among the most charismatic sports figures, who passed away one day earlier.

Ali’s death brought back fond memories of the epic 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” fight between Ali and Joe Frazier. The fight in Quezon City was won by Ali by technical knockout and halted prior to the 15th round. The contest’s name is derived from the Ali’s statement ahead of the bout when he said that it would be a “killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila.”

The fight, the culmination of a three-bout rivalry between the two boxers, turned out to one of the most demanding for Ali. Later he would say that he felt it was “the closest I’ve ever been to dying.”

After the bout, the owner of the arena where it took place built a shopping mall and named it after Ali. The popular Ali Mall stands to this day.

“It put the Philippines on the map,” sports commentator Ronnie Nathanielsz said in retrospective.

The fight was watched by 770 million viewers in 68 countries, a record for a sports event at that time .

Ali and Marcos
Muhammad Ali meets Ferdinand Marcos

In fact, then-Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda lobbied to have the fight in Manila to devert international and domestic attention from the political restiveness and growing Muslim and communist insurgencies after placing the entire Philippines under martial rule three years earlier.

Marcos, who reportedly paid Ali’s promoter Don King $3 million to stage the fight in Manila, also handed the trophy to Ali after his victory. King is said to have received an even higher amount from then-dictator Mobutu Sese of Zaire to hold the “Rumble in the Jungle” fight between Ali and George Foreman in 1974 in Zaire’s capital Kinshasa.

Ali, although a political person, was not bothered by Marcos’s image and did even say he personally liked the Philippine leader, Nathanielsz said.

Manny Pacquiao, one of the most popular boxers of his generation, led Philippine tributes to Ali, joining his fellow countrymen in mourning the boxing legend’s death.

“We lost a giant” Pacquiao, the only man in boxing history to win world titles in eight different weight divisions, said in a statement.

“Boxing benefited from Muhammad Ali’s talents but not nearly as much as mankind benefited from his humanity. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Ali family,” he added.

Incumbent President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Herminio Coloma said: “Muhammad Ali is a legendary athlete who touched the lives of people from all over the world, including Filipinos who witnessed the ‘Thrilla in Manila’.”

“We mourn the passing of ‘the greatest’ who floated like a butterfly but stung like a bee,” Philippine Olympic Committee spokesman Joey Romasanta stated.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Almost 41 years after one of the most memorable boxing fights ever and arguably one of the best in the sport’s history, Filipinos in the boxing-crazy nation on June 4 paid tribute to Muhammad Ali, three-time heavyweight champion and among the most charismatic sports figures, who passed away one day earlier.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thrilla in ManilaAlmost 41 years after one of the most memorable boxing fights ever and arguably one of the best in the sport’s history, Filipinos in the boxing-crazy nation on June 4 paid tribute to Muhammad Ali, three-time heavyweight champion and among the most charismatic sports figures, who passed away one day earlier.

Ali’s death brought back fond memories of the epic 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” fight between Ali and Joe Frazier. The fight in Quezon City was won by Ali by technical knockout and halted prior to the 15th round. The contest’s name is derived from the Ali’s statement ahead of the bout when he said that it would be a “killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila.”

The fight, the culmination of a three-bout rivalry between the two boxers, turned out to one of the most demanding for Ali. Later he would say that he felt it was “the closest I’ve ever been to dying.”

After the bout, the owner of the arena where it took place built a shopping mall and named it after Ali. The popular Ali Mall stands to this day.

“It put the Philippines on the map,” sports commentator Ronnie Nathanielsz said in retrospective.

The fight was watched by 770 million viewers in 68 countries, a record for a sports event at that time .

Ali and Marcos
Muhammad Ali meets Ferdinand Marcos

In fact, then-Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda lobbied to have the fight in Manila to devert international and domestic attention from the political restiveness and growing Muslim and communist insurgencies after placing the entire Philippines under martial rule three years earlier.

Marcos, who reportedly paid Ali’s promoter Don King $3 million to stage the fight in Manila, also handed the trophy to Ali after his victory. King is said to have received an even higher amount from then-dictator Mobutu Sese of Zaire to hold the “Rumble in the Jungle” fight between Ali and George Foreman in 1974 in Zaire’s capital Kinshasa.

Ali, although a political person, was not bothered by Marcos’s image and did even say he personally liked the Philippine leader, Nathanielsz said.

Manny Pacquiao, one of the most popular boxers of his generation, led Philippine tributes to Ali, joining his fellow countrymen in mourning the boxing legend’s death.

“We lost a giant” Pacquiao, the only man in boxing history to win world titles in eight different weight divisions, said in a statement.

“Boxing benefited from Muhammad Ali’s talents but not nearly as much as mankind benefited from his humanity. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Ali family,” he added.

Incumbent President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Herminio Coloma said: “Muhammad Ali is a legendary athlete who touched the lives of people from all over the world, including Filipinos who witnessed the ‘Thrilla in Manila’.”

“We mourn the passing of ‘the greatest’ who floated like a butterfly but stung like a bee,” Philippine Olympic Committee spokesman Joey Romasanta stated.

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