Just as when everybody believed the trash talks between the camps of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier would finally end as their October 1 world heavyweight championship fight 42 years called “Thrilla in Manila” neared, the contrary happened.
Two days before h much-anticipated confrontation during the official weigh-in ceremony held at the cavernous Philippine Coliseum, the five-year animosity between the protagonists that started when the then defending champion former farm hand in Philadelphia beat the Louisville Lip by unanimous decision remained.
Both fighters, who in that span had engaged in what was the bitterest rivalry in the history of sweet science, had just capped their two-week preparations since their arrival in Manila and pronounced themselves ready for the 12-round Super Fight III showdown.
Ali, in his old loquacious manner, continued his verbal barrage on “Smokin” Joe during the weigh-in telling everybody to buy their tickets in order not to miss seeing Frazier standing for the last time because he intended to knock the title pretender out right at the sound of the opening bell.
The champ tipped the scale at 224- pounds. Frazier came nine pounds lighter at 215.5.
Frazier, hearing Ali’s official weight, exclaimed: “Muhammd Ali’s too heavy. He can’t dance so he has to fight me,” he then moved quickly towards his dressing room.
Ali, turning to a group of boxing writers and fight organizers, for his part, blurted out: “Don ‘t miss this fight. Get here early. Right here in this ring, you will witness the greatest fight o all fights.”
“It’ll be greater than Sugar Ray Robinson and Jack Dempsey. You will see the greatest fight of all time,” he said.
Before stepping down from the ring, Ali chanted: “This is the destruction of Joe Frazier. If you don’t, get here quick, Frazier will fall before you get in.”
Ali arrived ahead of everybody wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with the fight slogan he himself coined “Manila Gorilla.”
He came with trainer Angelo Dundee, security men and seven followers.
Minutes later came promoter Don King with friends followed by Frazier’s advance party composed of social secretary Denise Menz, sparring partners Duane Blobick and Stan Schwarts and Morty Holtzer.
Frazier arrived later with manager-trainer Eddie Futch. He wore a matching light blue robe with the words “Smokin” Joe” at the back.