Thursday, 1 October 2009

Tomorrow we look forward to the David Tua v Shane Cameron fight of the century. Yesterday we looked back 34 years to, arguably, the fight of the last century.

As fascinating as Tua-Cameron will be, it pales in comparison to the Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier “Thrilla in Manila” that made the world stop and go in search of the nearest television way back on October 1, 1975.

I remember it well, because at St Peter’s College in Gore, where I was a boarder at the time, we got part of the afternoon off to watch the fight in the school gymnasium.

The fight was staged at 10-45 in the morning (2-45pm our time) so Americans could watch it in prime time evening viewing. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos offered to hold the bout in Manila to divert attention from the social turmoil his country was experiencing, having declared martial law three years earlier.

Today heavyweight boxing is lightweight compared to the golden age when Ali, Frazier and George Foreman reigned supreme. The “Thrilla in Manila” was probably the zenith of Ali’s career following his “Rumble in the Jungle” when he regained the heavyweight crown from Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire on October 30, 1974.

Unlike Foreman, who became a friend of Ali’s after the fight, there was bad blood between Ali and Frazier, dating back to Ali’s comeback at Madison Square Garden in 1971. That fight came about because Frazier petitioned President Richard Nixon to pardon Ali after he was stripped of his title and his boxing license was revoked for refusing to be drafted to fight the war in Vietnam.

The-then heavyweight champ, Frazier, had also supported Ali financially during his exile from boxing so felt understandably betrayed when Ali labeled him an “ugly dumb gorilla” and the “white man’s champion” before their first fight.

Four years later, Ali cruelly taunted the less eloquent Frazier, famously saying “It’s gonna be a chilla, and a killa, and a thrilla, when I get the Gorilla in Manila”. In one of the most brutal bouts in history, both men fought to near incapacity, with Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch throwing in the towel, not allowing his fighter to return to the ring for the 15th and final round, despite Frazier’s pleas of “I want him boss”.

Ali would later claim it was the closest to dying he’d ever been, declaring Frazier the “greatest fighter of all time, next to me”.

Tua-Cameron will be good. But not that good!

Before we watch the fight of the century, there’s the mouth-watering prospect of an entree of Southland’s first win at Eden Park for 70 years. And imagine following that up with a main dish of a Ranfurly Shield victory for the first time in half a century!

Thursday, October 22, 2009 in Christchurch. Bring it on. Let’s get ready to rummmmmmble!


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