In 1971, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier electrified the New York audience at Madison Square Garden in a 15-round boxing slugfest, that was capped off with the champion Frazier knocking down the challenger in the final round before being declared the winner. It was Ali’s first defeat, but the pair would meet one more time in 1974, with neither man serving as the champion. Controversy abounded when the referee of that fight continued to allow Ali the use of questionable grappling tactics, and a premature ending of one round gave Frazier the chance to recover from a pummeling that might have ended the fight.
Due to the split between the two battles, a rubber match was set for the enemies to take place in the Philippines in October 1975. It would go on to be one of the most revered, and brutal bouts in the history of the sport. Here are a few things you may not have known about the legendary “Thrilla in Manila.”
Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo had a hand in the referee selection.
Going into the third bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Frazier’s cornerman, Eddie Futch, was concerned that Ali would be using the illegal tactic of holding his opponent behind the neck during clinches, a move that he had used against Frazier in their second fight, as well as the bout against George Foreman in Zaire, which Ali won. Futch suspected that Ali would try the same maneuver against Frazier in their rubber match, so in the time leading up to the bout in the Philippines, Futch used political connections in getting Zach Clayton — the referee in that Zaire bout who did not prevent Ali from continued use of the tactic — blocked from officiating the Thrilla in Manila.