187: Thrilla in Manila

Poster for the "Thrilla in Manila."
Poster for the “Thrilla in Manila.”

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?

Today is independence day in Cyprus, Nigeria, Palau and Tuvalu. It’s also National Day in China. In the United States it’s unofficially National Homemade Cookies Day. It’s the birthday of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, actor Richard Harris, actress Julie Andrews and baseball player Rod Carew.


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