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List of Articles by Eddie Alinea


 

ALI'S GREATNESS HEAVILY FELT IN THE PHILIPPINES

By Eddie Alinea
PhilBoxing.com
14 Jun 2016



Three-time world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali's life on earth turned a complete circle Friday (Saturday in Manila), the day his remains were laid to rest in Louisville, Kentucky where he, too started his boxing career half-a-century ago.

Ali, who baptized himself as "The Greatest" as early as when he first laced a boxing glove, which nobody disputed after proving himself worthy of the name, died last weekend at age 74, unable to survive his battle against Parkinson.

That Ali, indeed, touched the lives of many people and of many nations he traveled outside his own - in Africa, Asia, Middle East,the Americas, anywhere, the Philippines and the Filipinos included, is an understatement.

His greatness was felt not only atop the squared arena where he fought and beat the best and the finest of his peers but elsewhere where he, too, battled to give himself and those who believed in freedom on how and what to do with their lives without having to break the law.

Ali's title-defending fight with former friend turned-arch-enemy 'Smokin' Joe Frazier held 41 years ago on October 1, 1975 in Manila was an example of his stature as a fighter and, off the ring, an ambassador of goodwill ad agent of peace.

Ali and the 'Smokin' Joe Frazier came here as principal characters in the celebrated encounter known as "The Thrilla in Maxnila," as Ai himself coined it, "Super Fight III" being the last chapter of their trilogy, and later after the confrontation, dubbed "The Fight of the Century".

The protagonists and their respective entourage arrived in Manila three years after then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, a time when the country was reeling to the bad publicity generated by the imposition of the dictator's one-man rule.

No less than 100 foreign journalists who came on this shore for the fight were one in interpreting the hosting of what later described as "The Greatest Heavyweight Fight" of all-time as Marcos' way of projecting to the whole world the benefits his New Society had gained in respect to uplifting the living conditions of his people.

Ali himself admitted that before coming to the country, many people had discouraged him from pushing through with the showdown, saying, "there was shooting on the streets and fighting and people getting killed.

"They told me Filipinos were no good. They hate you, you are Muslim, they are killing Muslims there. It's just like Hitler," the world heavyweight champ told his audience in a conversation with local and foreign newsmen in his hotel room at the Hilton, his home while in Manila.

Ali, also called the "Louisville Lip, " disclosed that after five days since he arrived in the country he found out that what he had been told about the Philippines and the Filipinos were nothing but lies, lies, lies."

"Lying dogs, lying people," he exclaimed in reference to the foreign media men, who, he added, pictured the Philippines in bad light. "Filipinos are the sweetest people in the world. I see Muslims and Christians hugging and kissing each other."

"When they told me about those horrible things about the Philippines, I told them I will believe them when I see for myself. And what I saw is the exact opposite of what they were saying," Ali assured, vowing that after the fight, he will "spread the news about how great the Filipinos and the Philppines are."

In a one-on-one tete-a-tete with President Marcos in Malacanan Palace, Ali told the chief Executive that in Manila he felt "more at home" than in his hometown in Louisville, adding that from the moment he set his foot in the country, he realized he was among friendly people.

He said the President and wife, First Lady Imelda Marcos, exemplified the warmth and simplicity of the Filipino people.

Photo: Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier with President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos at the Malacanan Palace in Manila during the runup to the third Ali-Frazier fight dubbed as 'Thrilla in Manila' held at the Araneta Coliseum on Oct. 1, 1975.


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