Oct 1-1975: The Greatest Rivalry in Boxing History Culminates with a Thrilla
They first met in a ring in 1971 Joe Frazier was the heavyweight champ, fighting friend turned rival Muhammad Ali in only his third fight since returning from his suspension from boxing for refusing induction into the Army as a conscientious objector. The battle between the two undefeated legends was dubbed the “Fight of the Century” and Frazier won a unanimous decision.
The met again in 1974, after Frazier had lost his title to Foreman but nine months before Ali met Foreman in the famous Rumble in the Jungle. Ali won the second fight in an unanimous decision.
Ninety-one weeks later, they met again in Manilla in one of the first boxing match’s broadcast via satellite to a worldwide audience. Ali’s camp thought Frazier was washed up and Ali mocked Frazier early in the fight. At one point after a barrage from Frazier, Ali said at the beginning of the next round, “They told me Joe Frazier was washed up,” to which Frazier retorted: “They lied.”
From Larry Schwartz, Thrilla in Manila’ was epic bout, ESPN Classic
Oct. 1, 1975 – “Of all the men I fought, Sonny Liston was the scariest, George Foreman was the most powerful, Floyd Patterson was the most skilled as a boxer,” Ali once said. “But the roughest and toughest was Joe Frazier. He brought out the best in me, and the best fight we fought was in Manila.”
Frazier had won their first bout and Ali their second. It was 10:45 a.m. in the Philippines when their rubber match started, and the “The Thrilla in Manila” lived up to the hype.
The bout turned out to be three fights in one: The first had Ali, the champion, outboxing and outscoring Frazier, nailing him with clean, sharp shots. The second fight, from the fifth through the 11th, had Frazier giving a terrible pounding to Ali. The third fight began in the 12th round and somehow Ali, with the will of a champion, tore into Frazier for the next three rounds.
At the end of the 14th round, Ali was pleading with his corner crew to cut his gloves and throw in the towel. In the other corner, Frazier’s crew pleaded with the former Champ to call it quits since he was unable to see out of his one good eye. It was unknown at that time, that Frazier had a cataract in his left eye and was effectively fighting blind in the last rounds of the fight.
Eddie Futch, Frazier’s trainer, decided to stop the fight between the 14th and 15th rounds. Frazier protested stopping the fight, shouting “I want him, boss” and trying to get Futch to change his mind. Futch simply replied, “It’s all over. No one will forget what you did here today” and signaled to the referee to end the bout.
Ali was therefore declared the victor. He got up from his stool, raised his arm in victory, and then collapsed onto the canvas. He was completely spent. Ali claimed that this was the closest to dying he has ever been.
The unofficial AP score of the fight had it tied at 63-63 after 14. Some wonder whether Ali would have risen to face Frazier had the 15th round bell rung. Frazier’s doctor, however, never regretted the decision and recounted for one biographer the number of fighters he had seen killed in similar instances.
Afterwards, both boxers praised the other.
Man, I hit him with punches that’d bring down the walls of a city. Lawdy, lawdy, he’s a great champion.
Joe Frazier, I’ll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I’m gonna tell ya, that’s one helluva man, and God bless him. Joe Frazier is the greatest fighter in the world, next to me.
The fight was recognized:
- Fight of the Year by The Ring in 1975
- #1 Fight of All-Time by The Ring in 1996.
- ESPN’s SportsCentury ranked the fight as the fifth greatest sporting event of all-time in 1999.
Afterwards, Ali’s doctor told him he should quit. Ali instead fought ten more fights over the next five years, losing three including his last two. Frazier would fight only twice more, losing a rematch against George Foreman the next year and then drawing in a comeback attempt in 1981.
In 2009, ESPN released a documentary about the fight and the Ali-Frazier rivalry.
|Date||October 1, 1975|
Quezon City, Philippines
|Title(s) on the line||WBC/WBA Heavyweight Championship
Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship
|Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier|
|The Greatest||Smokin’ Joe|
|Tale of the tape|
|48–2 (35 KO)||Pre-fight record||32–2 (27 KO)|
|6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)||Height||5 ft 11.5 in (1.82 m)|
|224 lb (102 kg)||Weight||215 lb (98 kg)|
Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion
Muhammad Ali Pre-Thrilla (48-2)
|Win||48-2||Joe Bugner||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||June 30, 1975||33 years, 164 days||Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||47-2||Ron Lyle||TKO||11 (15)||May 16, 1975||33 years, 119 days||Las Vegas||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||46-2||Chuck Wepner||TKO||15 (15), 2:41||March 24, 1975||33 years, 66 days||Richfield, OH||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||45-2||George Foreman||KO||8 (15), 2:58||October 30, 1974||32 years, 286 days||Kinshasa, Zaire||“The Rumble in the Jungle“;
Won The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles.
|Win||44-2||Joe Frazier||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||January 28, 1974||32 years, 11 days||New York City||“Ali-Frazier II”
Retained NABF Heavyweight title, vacated later in 1974
|Win||43-2||Rudi Lubbers||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||October 20, 1973||31 years, 276 days||Jakarta, Indonesia|
|Win||42-2||Ken Norton||Decision (split)||12 (12)||September 10, 1973||31 years, 236 days||Inglewood, CA||Won NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Loss||41-2||Ken Norton||Decision (split)||12 (12)||March 31, 1973||31 years, 73 days||San Diego||Lost NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||41-1||Joe Bugner||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||February 14, 1973||31 years, 28 days||Las Vegas|
|Win||40-1||Bob Foster||KO||8 (12), 0:40||November 21, 1972||30 years, 309 days||Stateline, NV||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||39-1||Floyd Patterson||TKO||7 (12)||September 20, 1972||30 years, 247 days||New York City||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||38-1||Alvin Lewis||TKO||11 (12), 1:15||July 19, 1972||30 years, 184 days||Dublin, Ireland|
|Win||37-1||Jerry Quarry||TKO||7 (12), 0:19||June 27, 1972||30 years, 162 days||Las Vegas, NV||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||36-1||George Chuvalo||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||May 1, 1972||30 years, 105 days||Vancouver, Canada||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||35-1||Mac Foster||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||April 1, 1972||30 years, 75 days||Tokyo, Japan|
|Win||34-1||Jürgen Blin||KO||7 (12), 2:12||December 26, 1971||29 years, 343 days||Zurich, Switzerland|
|Win||33-1||Buster Mathis||Decision (unanimous)||12 (12)||November 17, 1971||29 years, 304 days||Houston, TX||Retained NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Win||32-1||Jimmy Ellis||TKO||12 (12), 2:10||July 26, 1971||29 years, 190 days||Houston, TX||Won vacant NABF Heavyweight title.|
|Loss||31-1||Joe Frazier||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||March 8, 1971||29 years, 50 days||New York City||“The Fight of the Century“;
Lost The Ring World Heavyweight title
For WBA & WBC World Heavyweight titles
|Win||31-0||Oscar Bonavena||TKO||15 (15), 2:03||December 7, 1970||28 years, 324 days||New York City||Retained The Ring World Heavyweight title.|
|Win||30-0||Jerry Quarry||TKO||3 (15)||October 26, 1970||28 years, 282 days||Atlanta, GA||Retained The Ring World Heavyweight title.|
|Win||29-0||Zora Folley||KO||7 (15), 1:48||March 22, 1967||25 years, 64 days||New York City, NY||Retained The Ring, WBC & WBA World Heavyweight titles;
Stripped of titles on 04-28-1967.
|Win||28-0||Ernie Terrell||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||February 6, 1967||25 years, 20 days||Houston, TX||Retained The Ring and WBC World Heavyweight titles
Won WB World Heavyweight title
|Win||27-0||Cleveland Williams||TKO||3 (15)||November 14, 1966||24 years, 301 days||Houston, TX||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||26-0||Karl Mildenberger||TKO||12 (15)||September 10, 1966||24 years, 236 days||Frankfurt, West Germany||Retained|
|Win||25-0||Brian London||KO||3 (15)||August 6, 1966||24 years, 201 days||London, England||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||24-0||Henry Cooper||TKO||6 (15), 1:38||May 21, 1966||24 years, 124 days||London, England||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||23-0||George Chuvalo||Decision (unanimous)||15 (15)||March 29, 1966||24 years, 71 days||Toronto, Canada||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||22-0||Floyd Patterson||TKO||12 (15), 2:18||November 22, 1965||23 years, 309 days||Las Vegas, NV||Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.|
|Win||21-0||Sonny Liston||KO||1 (15), 2:12||May 25, 1965||23 years, 128 days||Lewiston, ME||“Ali vs. Liston (II)”
Retained The Ring & WBC World Heavyweight titles.
|Win||20-0||Sonny Liston||TKO||7 (15)||February 25, 1964||22 years, 39 days||Miami Beach, FL||“Clay Liston I“,
Won The Ring, WBA & WBC World Heavyweight titles;
Stripped of WBA title on 06-19-1964.
|Win||19-0||Henry Cooper||TKO||5 (10), 2:15||June 18, 1963||21 years, 152 days||London, England|
|Win||18-0||Doug Jones||Decision (unanimous)||10 (10)||March 13, 1963||21 years, 55 days||New York City|
|Win||17-0||Charley Powell||KO||3, 2:04||January 24, 1963||21 years, 7 days||Pittsburgh|
|Win||16-0||Archie Moore||TKO||4 (10), 1:35||November 15, 1962||20 years, 302 days||Los Angeles|
|Win||15-0||Alejandro Lavorante||KO||5 (10), 1:48||July 20, 1962||20 years, 184 days||Los Angeles|
|Win||14-0||Billy Daniels||TKO||7 (10), 2:21||May 19, 1962||20 years, 122 days||New York City|
|Win||13-0||George Logan||TKO||4 (10), 1:34||April 23, 1962||20 years, 96 days||New York City|
|Win||12-0||Don Warner||TKO||4, 0:34||March 28, 1962||20 years, 70 days||Miami Beach|
|Win||11-0||Sonny Banks||TKO||4 (10), 0:26||February 10, 1962||20 years, 24 days||New York City|
|Win||10-0||Willi Besmanoff||TKO||7 (10), 1:55||November 29, 1961||19 years, 316 days||Louisville, KY|
|Win||9-0||Alex Miteff||TKO||6 (10), 1:45||October 7, 1961||19 years, 263 days||Louisville, KY|
|Win||8-0||Alonzo Johnson||Decision (unanimous)||10 (10)||July 22, 1961||19 years, 186 days||Louisville, KY|
|Win||7-0||Duke Sabedong||Decision (unanimous)||10 (10)||June 26, 1961||19 years, 160 days||Las Vegas|
|Win||6-0||LaMar Clark||KO||2 (10), 1:27||April 19, 1961||19 years, 92 days||Louisville, KY|
|Win||5-0||Donnie Fleeman||TKO||7 (8)||February 21, 1961||19 years, 35 days||Miami Beach|
|Win||4-0||Jim Robinson||KO||1 (8), 1:34||February 7, 1961||19 years, 21 days||Miami Beach, FL|
|Win||3-0||Tony Esperti||TKO||3 (8), 1:30||January 17, 1961||19 years, 0 days||Miami Beach|
|Win||2-0||Herb Siler||KO||4 (8)||December 27, 1960||18 years, 345 days||Miami Beach|
|Win||1-0||Tunney Hunsaker||Decision (unanimous)||6 (6)||October 29, 1960||18 years, 286 days||Louisville, KY|