Muhammad Ali: 1942-2016

Muhammad Ali in 1966. (Photo from The Dutch National Archive via Wikimedia Commons)
Muhammad Ali in 1966. (Photo from The Dutch National Archive via Wikimedia Commons)

On Friday, former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, possibly the biggest sports star of all-time, died at the age of 74 after a decades-long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Here’s a look back at our Oct. 1, 2015 episode about his 1975 fight against Joe Frazier, the Thrilla in Manilla:

(Originally broadcast on Oct. 1, 2016)

Today is the 40th anniversary of the third bout between boxers Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.

Here are a few things you may not have known about the “Thrilla in Manila.”

Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali split their first two matchups. Frazier won the first, known as the “Fight of the Century” in 1971, handing Ali his first defeat by unanimous decision. Ali won the second fight in 1974 by unanimous decision.

A year earlier, Ali won the heavyweight title by beating previously undefeated George Foreman in “The Rumble in the Jungle.” In the 11 months between the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila, Ali defended his title three times.

The fight was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., local time in the Philippines. Due to a combination of the heat of the day and the television lights, the temperature in the ring was estimated by Frazier to be more than 120 degrees fahrenheit.

Ali opened the fight aggressively, setting up his straight right with his left jab and winning the first two rounds. In the third round, Ali began to use the rope-a-dope strategy that had helped him beat Foreman a year earlier in Zaire. The strategy didn’t bother Frazier much as he could get closer to Ali and use his left hand.

At the end of the ninth round, Ali said to his trainer, “Man, this is the closest I’ve ever been to dying.” Frazier was suffering as well, including severe facial swelling, which was closing his right eye. This was a big problem because was nearly blind in the left eye. To compensate for the lack of vision, Frazier stood more upright instead of bobbing and weaving. This played into Ali’s hands, literally. In the 12th and 13th rounds, Ali pounded Frazier furiously, including one punch that launched Frazier’s mouth guard across the ring. After a brutal 14th round, Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch threw in the towel, ending the fight and giving Ali the victory.

Our question: Where was Muhammad Ali born?

June 6 is the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. It’s Russian Language Day, Memorial Day in South Korea, and National Day of Sweden.

It’s unofficially Atheist Pride Day, Drive-in Movie Day, and National Yo-Yo Day.

It’s the birthday of writer Alexander Pushkin, who was born in 1799; track and field athlete and civil rights leader Tommie Smith, who is 72 today; and tennis star Bjorn Borg, who is 60.

This week in 1975, the top song in the U.S. was “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver.

The No. 1 movie was “the French Connection II,” while the novel “The Moneychangers” by Arthur Hailey topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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