Note: This unedited article was lifeted from the december 1975 issue of THE RING Magazine for our special 90th Anniversary issue (February 2012).
MUHAMMAD Ali, heavyweight champion of the world, lived up to his reputation as “the greatest” as he successfully defended his title by knocking out Joe Frazier in fourteen rounds.
The Thriller in Manila was just that—a classic that will go down in the record books as one of, if the not the greatest, heavyweight title fight of all time.
In two previous meetings in Madison Square Garden, New York, Frazier had gained a unanimous fifteen round decision to retain his title. Then, after losing his crown to George Foreman, Frazier met Ali in a 12-round non title bout in 1974 in which Ali won the decision to even up the score.
The stage was set for Manila and Super Fight Number III. The fight was ballyhooed as the Fight of the Century and it turned out to be close to that.
Going into the eleventh session, Frazier had the lead and he looked the fresher of the two.
Joe was bobbing and weaving, taking Ali’s best shots with seemingly no effect. Joe smashed his way into close quarters and appeared on the verge of becoming the third man to regain the heavyweight title. Floyd Patterson and Ali were the only two to achieve this.
Then Ali got his second wind, a tired fighter came to life, went up to his toes, reached down into his reserve of stamina. The tide began to turn in his favor in very close rounds by virtue of his super man’s ability to mount an offense when he appeared on the way out.
Going into round thirteen it was obvious that the next three rounds would decide the fight.
Midway through that round Ali landed the punch that changed the entire evening for both fighters. A right hand ripped into Frazier as he was coming in. It caught him in just the right place, stopped him on his heels and threw him back several steps. He was hurt.
From that punch on Frazier was not the same fighter. Ali was gaining confidence. Frazier was no longer the bobbing, weaving charger. He reverted to the Frazier of old, the Frazier who came in flat-footed with little movement—a style made to order for Ali.
Whereas Frazier was now all downhill, Ali gained strength. His combinations played havoc with Frazier, and before long his challenger’s right eye was almost closed, with a cut under that optic.
At the end of round fourteen, with Frazier sitting in his corner, Eddie Futch, his manager, signaled to the referee that Frazier had had enough.
The bout was one of the most hard fought, exciting and punishing battles to have graced any ring. Usually return fights do not live up to their forecasts and are something less than scintillating. But the meeting between Ali and Frazier will certainly go into the Ring Record Book as one of the best all-around heavyweight title fights of all time. No. 3 was TOPS!