Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thrilla in Manila

So who was the Greatest? I would have said Ali, right up to watching this documentary.

Ali was the most entertaining sports personality ever?

I used to agree with that, even though I've hated boxing for many years. But Ali was bigger than boxing? Ali was an artist?

In his first fight with Ali, Joe Frazier pummelled him and won on points.

In their second fight Ali held Frazier by the neck and won on points.

In Manila...

Joe Frazier was almost blind in one eye from the early sixties. In spite of this massive disadvantage, he became world champion. In Manila, with a few rounds to go, with Joe on top, his other eye became closed up. The penultimate round saw Ali half-murder the blind man. Now both Ali and Frazier were exhausted from the heat and the punishment they had meted out to each other. If Joe had come out for the final round, punching into darkness, Ali would have killed him. The man in Joe's corner was certain of that. He'd seen six deaths in the ring in his lifetime. He didn't want Joe to be the seventh.

They stopped the fight. Joe was furious. He hated Ali so much...

In the run-up to the fight, Ali had called Frazier ugly and stupid. He had called him an Uncle Tom, a gorilla. Frazier was sponsored and supported by white people. Pro-Vietnam War, anti-civil rights Republicans. He had a white girlfriend.

Ali was the darling of the rest of us.

But were there thinking grown ups around then who felt distaste at the gorilla comments? Who knew all about Ali's beloved Nation Of Islam's thoughts on integration, about Ali speaking at a Ku Klux Klan rally because of a shared ideology?

I was not a grown up at the time. I did not think about things. Ali goofing around with Parkinson and Carpenter was entertaining and made me laugh. I really wanted that beautiful, funny, light skinned black man to kill that ugly, stupid, dark black Uncle Tom gorilla.

Joe now thinks the beating he gave Ali in their fights contributed in some way to Ali's Parkinson's. He's glad. He thinks Ali is paying for the way he was when he was younger.

Christ, boxing is disturbing enough as it is without all this on top! Suffice to say if someone asks me who is the greatest sports personality of all time, I won't be plumping for Muhammad Ali.

Princess Anne gets it from me.


  1. She gets it from all of us, the dirty bitch.

  2. They should have quit while they were ahead and invented a non stick grill pan.

  3. I'm just relieved to hear that Anne is getting it from someone!

    The new kid on the block is that crazyass Ultimate Fighting..some poor bastard is going to die, it's inevitable.

    I have no use for Human Cockfighting..
    and I am not judging the swordsmanship that some might encourage in the privacy of one's home...
    whatever floats yer boat...
    but this new anything goes pummelfest is barbarian.

    The next logical step will be snuff fighting. I wonder who will build the first Coloseum?

  4. I was shocked to find Ali had a similar racial ideology with the KKK, two sides of the same coin. And to think people used to hate Joe Bugner, the mind boggles.

  5. Vicus - You know those horsey types!

    Kaz - Foreman stopped Frazier in about ten seconds. He must have caught him on his blind side. If it was Foreman Ali was fighting it would have been The Griller In Manila.

    CT - I blame Bradley Pitt. Now there's a pugilist's face if ever I've seen one.

    Istvanski - And Ali ended up rich. And Frazier is living above his old run-down gym. Joe Bugner - now there was a handsome man. Ali couldn't call HIM ugly.

  6. I'm glad we're all so much wiser now and the modern equivalent of boxing is much more civilised : Strictly Come Dancing.

    ...on second thoughts...

  7. Yes, it's all another world, Cassius Clay, Angelo Dundee, John Profumo, Justin de Villeneuve...

    ...and Princess Anne? I'd no idea. I see you in a new and exciting light, Geoff.

  8. I missed the Thrilla doc Geoff - wow, sounds like they did their research...

    I'm just interested to know where they were coming from on this. It's easy for us in these apolitical, post-triumph of capitalism times to miss the spirit of the 60s and 70s. Yes, people made mistakes and did things we think of as crazy now - but often that was because they had a definite choice as to what side they were, or perceived themselves to be, on.

    This isn't in defence of Ali, merely to put the man in the context of the time but you'll recall that the CIA was on hand in Florida for one of Ali's first big fights. The Beatles were in town too, Sam Cooke also. Cooke was gunned down later that same year I believe, supposedly by a scaredy cat hotel maid who filled him full of enough lead to cover all the cathedrals of England...MLK, Malcolm X...

    Those were (perhaps understandably) paranoid times and there was a whole lot of craziness abroad. I'm not dismissing the points in the post Geoff, I'm just intrigued as to where the revision of Ali is coming from, politically/culturally etc.

    Remember the Goldman thing with Lennon - a lot of it was proved to be accurate but the muck-raking style of the work and the political spirit of the time, debunking the idealsim of the Sixties and pouring scorn on anything 'progressive' because it didn't fit the prevailing political agenda - that still stinks to high heaven from where I'm sat and I'd hate to see the same thing played out again.

    My only 'in' on it all is Norman Mailer's observation of Ali during the Rumble in the Jungle. You see it in his (Ali's) eyes - just for a second as the film goes slo-mo: total and utter *fear*. Beneath all the bluster and the rapping and the mouth there was a scaredy cat. Foreman could kill him, such is his superior punching power. All Ali can do is hope he punches himself out before Ali's body gives in. Whatever else you might say, that took the kind of courage that no one writing or reading this has ever needed to display.

    It's interesting to see these fights played out as echoes of the then-contemporary political strugglesm But I still see them as what perhaps they always were. Modern day myths, huge, primal, timeless battles played out before our very eyes on a flickering screen; in adance like the shadows from a fire.


    Prune veradification: boombyeay

    You really couldn't meck it up, could you??

  9. Murph - The audience are still baying for blood.

    Christopher - Anne was at even more of a disadvantage than Frazier. Her horse was a republican!

    Bob - The documentary concentrated more on the personal battle between the two men. They did show Ali in a bad light, though, really ripping in to someone who had previously been his friend and had helped him get back to the position where he was able to compete for the world title again. I have the feeling that Ali was brainwashed into thinking he was fighting for a cause and against black subservience whereas Frazier felt he was fighting a personal battle against a man who had betrayed him. Frazier was betrayed by not only Ali but by the politicians who were supposed to be on his side. The Rocky statue in Philadelphia is a massive piss-take.

  10. Anonymous2:47 PM

    At Houston airport on the down escalator from the President's Club, I passed George Foreman going up. I don't know if he uses Creme de la Mer, but he has the most beautiful smooth skin. And the bearing of a merciful king.

  11. Most entertaining sports personality?

    Canada’s Don Cherry (the guy on the right in the video).

    You can tell from the first 30 seconds.

    No need to subject yourself to more.

  12. Arabella - It's all those healthy grilled vegetables.

    MJ - He seems like one helluva guy! That ice hockey is more violent than boxing.

  13. It's certainly an interesting personal battle - Ali's nasty (but, I have to admit, very amusingly so) about Frazier in When We Were Kings. Ali was evidently of mixed race, so you wonder if that fed into it all too.

    It took Parkinsons to teach him some humility, but I guess that was always in the story - we're all hubris in the making, I guess and that was a defining feature of Ali's presentational style/personality - it was a question of when, not if he was going to be taught a lesson. I guess it was time that taught it him in the end, rather than a fellow fighter - "you never knocked me down Ray..."

    Mind you, it was his own fault for agreeing to the interview with Parky in the first place...



    rune crassifivivisection: rgingbll

    You couldn't...

  14. us horsey types are always down and dirty, it's all the frigging mud.

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  16. Bob - I still like Ali. He's just not up there with Bobby Moore and John Aki Bua.

    Ziggi - You and Anne and Jordan. You're all the bleedin' same.