It wasn’t all works for Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in their fortnight stay in Manila prior to their historic Thrilla In Manila world heavyweight championship encounter October 1, 1975 at the Araneta Coliseum (re-Christened Philippine Coliseum).
The two best fighters of their era, in fact, had to test their superb physical attributes attending social functions almost daily since their arrival aside from the hectic training schedule charted for them by their trainers – Angelo Dundee for Ali, the defending champion, and Eddie Futch for Frazier, the challenger.
One day, following their early morning workout, the duo had to end their morning activities by sampling the Philippine countryside, attending the cornerstone laying ceremonies of the then being constructed Elorde Sports Plaza and Tourism Center along Sucat Road in Parañaque, then still a town in Rizal Province.
Ali arrived first and laid the marker, staying briefly before Frazier’s turn, saying he still had to prepare for gym work early afternoon of the same day.
Frazier sealed the cornerstone and stayed the rest of the morning as he had earlier cancelled his afternoon workout for the sake, he said, of “seeing the realization of the dream of a fellow fighter,” in reference to former world juniors-lightweight champion Gabriel “Flash” Elorde whose idea it was to come out with the project.
In his brief remarks, Frazier, a supporter of the Golden Gloves program in his home Philadelphia, congratulated Elorde and his associates for the gigantic project aimed at the development of sports and youths, as well as the country’s tourism.
“I am happy to see fellow fighters like Elorde do something for the people of the world … and, as matter of fact, better than to themselves,” Frazier said referring to the Filipino pugilistic hero who reigned as the longest 130-pound belt-owner for seven year from 1960 to 1967.
Joe said he was happy to see he countryside and the people, especially children, who lined up the streets on the way to Sucat.
“Beautiful sights and very beautiful people. And the children, look at their big beautiful eyes. They’re marvelous,” Joe kept saying on the way back to his hotel.
“Maybe one day I’m not training, I’d like to see them, meet them and shake their hands,” he told Futch upon seeing a much larger throng along the Roxas Blvd. strip.
That same night, Frazier was honored with a reception at Hyatt Regency’s La Concha by hotel general manager Ralph Peter Jentes where he capped his day by singing and dancing.
“Smokin” Joe showed his guests, mostly members of media, that he can dance and sing as well as he can fight. He outshone son Marvis and everybody else doing the then popular ”bump” and “hustle” dance numbers.