Colonel Bob Sheridan: The Thrilla in Manila

By Ray Wheatley – World of Boxing

Hall of Fame broadcaster Colonel Bob Sheridan talked to Fightnews.com about the third and final bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier which was contested at the Araneta Coliseum in Manila, Philippines on October 1st, 1975. It was billed as the “Thrilla in Manila.”

The fight was watched by a record global television audience of one billion viewers, including 100 million viewers watching the fight on closed-circuit theatre television, and 500,000 pay-per-view buys on HBO home cable television.

LARRY HOLMES

“In the morning at the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier at the Araneta Coliseum ( Manila, Philippines) as I recall at 10 am the undercard had started when future Hall of Fame heavyweight Larry Holmes stopped Rodney Bobick. Larry was a sparring partner of Muhammad’s. Larry was getting his career going. Larry had an 81-inch reach which was longer than Muhammad’s of 78 inches. Larry had a punishing, thunderous booming jab. The only time I remember Ali wearing headgear in sparring was against Larry Holmes. Larry used to beat the living crap out of Ali in those sparring sessions. That’s why Don King immediately signed Larry Holmes. Don knew Larry was the future of the heavyweight division.

THE FIGHT

“In round one both Frazier and Ali are going hammers and hell. Really going at it and it was a very tough first round. Remember they called this the “fight of the century.” I say it was not. Because these guys were huge stars but they were both over the hill. But they were both over the hill at the same spot and because of the magnitude of who was fighting, it appeared to the untrained eye it was a great fight. It was a brutal fight and they beat the living daylights out of each other.

It was so hot in there at Araneta with no air conditioning, but since then I have done a few Pacquiao fights and it is a beautiful stadium. The humidity in the Philippines is brutal. I was sweating and I had to take my coat off. The sweat went right through my shirt and I am just calling the fight. Frazier and Ali are hitting each other with clean shots. These two old fighters still had it. The great ability and athletic skill of Muhammad Ali and the great desire of Joe Frazier

The fight progressed and became a grueling battle, back and forth. Nobody goes down and both have taken unbelievable punishment during the fight. We get to the end of the fourteenth round and before the final fifteenth round and they are both spent and the fight is close. Anyone could have got the decision. They were both beat to a pulp.

In between rounds, Eddie Futch decides Frazier has had enough. He cannot take anymore. Good thing he stopped the fight. Frazier could have been killed had it gone one more round. Angelo was talking to Ferdie Pacheco, and remember the Muslims were involved and they didn’t want him to stop the fight. Angelo said, “I gotta stop this fight, Ali is going to be killed.”

Just at that time, Eddie Futch stopped the fight and said, “No more,” and if you recall both Frazier and Ali collapsed on their stools. They were physically, mentally and every other way spent. Muhammad won the third fight of the “trilogy.”

It was one of the greatest fights, but in no way was it as athletic as the first fight. That fight was named “The Fight of the Century.” Neither one should have fought after that fight. Both of them spent over one month in the hospital. That was a great quote from Muhammad when he said, ‘That’s as close as you can get to death and still be alive.’ That’s why that fight is remembered as one of the greatest fights ever.

(Joe Frazier trainer Eddie Futch told referee Carlos Padilla that Frazier was retiring at the conclusion of round fourteen)

(Ali was ahead on all three scorecards, Carlos Padilla 66-60, Larry Nadayaa 66-62, Alfredo Quizon 67-62.)

(WBC and WBA heavyweight title)

BROADCAST

“My broadcast was the radio broadcast and a lot of the networks took my call of the fight because quite frankly it was a lot better than the American networks. Don Dunphy got to call that fight. Don King had made a promise to him that he could call that fight. Of course, Don Dunphy is a “Hall Of Fame” broadcaster.

DON KING

“Don King is a wonderful guy to people who are loyal to him. For over forty years Don has been a friend of mine and anytime I pick up the phone and call Don at home he’ll call me right back. That’s the friendship I have with Don King. You cannot get to Don King. Nobody can get to him. I just talked to Don. He has a new series coming out and he wants me to broadcast it. So when Covid-19 is over I will go back after a ten-year layoff when I worked for Bob Arum. Don said, “You’re not a “Top Rank” announcer you’re a “KingVision” announcer!”

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  • Don Dunphy was one of the very best for a long time-pretty sure his broadcast of that fight was the best.

  • I really doubt that Angelo Dundee was seriously thinking about stopping the fight after the fourteenth round. Ali won the thirteenth and fourteenth rounds big.
    Angelo spurred on his fighters in close fights. Just like he did with Sugar Ray against Hearns. He would not have stopped the Thrilla with one round to go. Don’t know where Bob Sheridan is getting that story from.
    If the fight had gone into the fifteenth round, even though Ali was very hurt and tired, he was on verge of stopping Frazier. Joe couldn’t see anymore, and was getting hit with clean, hard shots. He had nothing left.
    Futch did the right thing not letting Frazier come out for the last round. Joe could have got seriously hurt and probably either stopped by Ali, or the referee stopping the fight. Ali would have come out for the fifteenth. No one in Ali’s corner was going to stop it at that point.

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