THE fight, often voted as the finest in all of boxing history, is 44 years old today, October 1. And all these years later, no-one can forget the incredible third fight between arch-rivals Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Known as “The Thrilla in Manila,” the epic war that took place in Quezon City four decades ago is rightfully celebrated as one of boxing’s finest hours; a fight that showcased all the bravery, all the savagery and all the courage needed to be the best.
And, in large part to the excellent HBO documentary of 2007, the rubber-match between Ali and Frazier is also the subject of some debate: just what would have happened if Eddie Futch had not pulled out his nearly blind warrior soon after the conclusion of the 14th-round that day in the sweltering heat of the Philippines?
The fight, as all fans are aware, was one of the most brutal, the most damaging and the most fiercely fought in boxing history, and after those astonishing 14 rounds were over neither Ali nor “Smokin’ Joe” had much left at all, if anything. But Frazier, the challenger, his eyes pounded shut (one of which only had partial vision going into the fight due to a 1960s injury Frazier had suffered yet kept secret) was deemed to have been in slightly worse condition than the reigning and defending heavyweight king, and Futch, fearing for his fighter’s very life, pulled Joe out.