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The Thrilla that Made Manila.....

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Considered the “Fight of the Century”, the Oct. 1, 1975 fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier was the 3rd and final fight  between the two fighters in a span of 4 years, starting with

the Madison Square Garden victory of Joe Frazier in March 8, 1971. Both fighters were in their 30's, considered a time in their lives when they see their boxing skills start to diminish. Plus, they were very different fighters both at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Frazier, the more quiet and more reserved slugger, while Ali was the brash and cocky boxing icon who went against the norm and refused to enlist in the army when he was drafted for the Vietnam war. He was a very loud fighter who will go to the extreme to test your patience with his mouth, which he uses as part of his whole boxing arsenal. In fact it was his continuous trash talking that made them very bitter enemies, even though they were close friends years before.


The fight had some numerous firsts. It was the FIRST fight held in Manila as the late President Marcos wanted to show the whole world that the Philippines was a “great” nation having declared Martial Law 3 years earlier. It was the FIRST fight to be broadcast direct via continuous satellite signal and was technically the FIRST fight on pay-per-view that was offered by HBO who was more than willing to buy the broadcast rights. So, technically it was one of the FIRST major broadcast challenges of HBO which started their operation in 1972. It was also the FIRST time the famed Araneta Coliseum hosted 50,000 visitors in a coliseum whose design capacity was good for only 36,000 and the fight was fought on a hot and humid day when the temperatures reached 100 degrees fahrenheit (38 degrees celsius).


The fight had a lot of drama that started when Ali nicknamed Frazier “The Gorilla” and used this as a basis of his taunting strategy for the rhyme “It will be a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the Gorilla in Manila.” The event also had its off the ring controversies and drama as it was also during this fight where Ali was caught by his wife with his mistress, Veronica Porsche. His wife apparently saw her on TV during its media coverage when Ali introduced Porsche to the President and the First Lady. Eventually, Ali divorced his wife 2 years later and married Porsche, a relationship that only lasted 9 years as Porsche divorced Ali because of his continued infidelity.

Ali eventually won the fight on a TKO when Frazier’s camp decided to not answer the bell for the 15th. Unbeknownst to others, Ali was also ready to throw in the towel and had ordered his cornerman to cut the tie of his gloves. An order that Angelo Dundee, his trainer ignored. Eventually, Ali described the fight as the “closest to dying he had ever been.” And when he was asked by a reporter if he had seen a replay of the fight, he retorted, "why would I want to go back to see hell."


I purchased this medal from a kind collector who was a very big fan of Frazier and deeply hated Ali. He felt that Frazier was the tougher of the two fighters, but acknowledged that the boxing skill set of Ali was "out of this world." The medal is listed in Honeycutt's "Philippine Medals, Tokens and Jetons: 1780-2020" as Honeycutt-711 and measures 40mm. I acquired it raw and submitted it to NGC for slabbing, eventually achieving a grade of Ms67. It is a gold plated brass medal that features the busts of both Ali and Frazier on the obverse butting heads, a symbolic pose of both fighters for what is now considered the only "Fight of the Century."

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