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Thrilla in Manila: The war of nerves starts upon Ali’s arrival


PhilBoxing.com




Right upon landing at the Manila International Airport on September 15, 1971, Angelo Dundee, defending world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali’s chief trainer, declared that challenger Joe Frazier “had already lost the fight.”

“The fantastic welcome today seals Frazier’s doom,” Dundee told co-promoter and Games and Amusements Board chair Louie Tabuena, who welcomed Ali’s party in their arrival. He was referring to the lavish welcome hundreds of greeters accorded them.

“It’s really juiced up my guy. They’ve really never has things go this well,” Dundee assured.

The defending belt-owner though started changing his mind as the plane came down at 5:55 a.m., saying, “beautiful, beautiful country. I gotta see lot of this. Look, what great people. I’ve got to do a work out for them.”

And so the Louisville Lip did a brief workout just after settling down in his Manila Hilton Hotel suite to accommodate his welcomers after which he met several members of the press who had earlier flew in at the steps of the hotel talking about anything from humorous, serious, philosophical.

Ali’s change of heart, scheduling a snap workout would have indicated of how things are going to be in the next fortnight leading to the October 1 face title-face off, especially to Frazier.

‘Smokin’ Joe felt this when Ali scheduled his gym work at 2 p.m., half-an-hour earlier than the normal 2:30 p.m. Frazier’s turn at the gym strts at 1 .m. Tabuena spoke with Dundee on the matter.

Frazier though save the situation. Since it’s Ali’s first day, he agreed to hurry out of FAT before 2 o’clock. But whether the set wound apply in the remaining days remained to be seen though.
Ali cancelled his work out in second day in Manila which came a no surprise to those who know how his organization works. He obliged to meeting with Filipino former world junior-lightweight champion Gabriel “Flash” Elorde and wife Laura in his Hilton suite in the afternoon.

He asked Elorde to teach him how to throw a left hook, Frazier’ best weapon, which the latter obliged. Boxing promoter Jun Sarreal, Laura’s younger brother, was in the meeting and Ali agreed to put his name in the trophy on Jun’s TV pro-boxing show.
Ali and Elorde first met in 1994 when the Filipino beat Frankie Narvaez in 12 rounds at the Madison Square Garden in New York.

There was no guessing what will be the scenario for the Marcos-Ali-Frazier meeting at the Palace scheduled two days later. Ali and Frazier were saying they would not enter the room together except when they stepped in the ring. The invitation was for them to meet the President together.

The final batch of equipment for Super Fight III arrived earlier that morning. Included are those left out in the shipment that arrived on Frazier’s flight. Among these were the heavy bags to be used in training, poles and ring canvas.

There were talks of getting the ring used in the Ali-Bugner fight earlier in Kuala Lumpur, but the Malaysians wouldn’t let the souvenir out of their sight. No words yet as where the ring in the October 1 fight will be used.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eddie Alinea.


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