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Thriller in Manila, Who do you believe?

By Thomas David Drury: It is 35 years since the thriller in Manila and the misconception lingers that Muhammad Ali wanted to quit on his stool before the start of the 15th and final round against smokin Joe Frazier, only for Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, to pull his battered warrior out of the fight.

Articles on sparked comments about Ali wanting to retire from the fight he was now dominating with 3 minutes to go. I looked up the Wikipedia entry on the fight and the online encyclopedia informs us that Ali walked back to his corner after the 14th and instructed Angelo Dundee, to cut his gloves off. Wikipedia quotes Ali as saying “Frazier quit just before i did”.

I presume this quote was taken from Ali’s biographer Thomas Hauser in an article he wrote in the observer (2005). I prefer the version of long-serving sportswriter Hugh McLlvanney who was ringside in Manila, quoting Ali as saying “if id taken the punches he took in there, i’d have quit long before he did”. I believe in that quote Ali was speaking figuratively to express his admiration for Frazier’s courage.

In HBO’s documentary Thriller in Manilla (2009) it was inferred that Ali didn’t want to go out for the 15th round. Wali Muhammad (featured in documentary) is quoted as saying Ali asked for the gloves to be cut off. Yes, biographer Hauser said in the HBO documentary, Ali had confirmed this to him. Could this be right though? i wonder. Angelo Dundee Ali’s long time trainer had no doubt in the matter.

HBO after the documentary broadcast a special, to my surprise all that featured were not at the fight, Dundee featured in the special by phone from his home in Tampa Bay Florida, I quote “so how can they make a statement like that, Ali didn’t say a word in the corner after the 14th”. “I said you’ve got him baby you’ve got him and that was it”. If it (the supposed comment about cutting the gloves off) exists, fine, but it didn’t exist, it didn’t happen. Ali was ready to go out for the 15th and if Frazier hadn’t been pulled out, he would have been knocked out it was like target practice for Ali at this stage of the fight. I simply cant believe the great Ali whose big heart was acknowledged even by his critics would have bailed out (against his greatest rival).

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