This, defending world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and challenger Joe Frazier vowed on several occasions during their almost a month stay in the country for their October 1, 1975 title fight called “Thrilla In Manila.’
In a talk with newsmen in his Manila Hilton suite five days after his arrival, Ali said he had found out that what he had been told about the Philippines, its people and President Marcos were “nothing but lies, lies, lies.”
Ali confessed that there were many people who tried to discourage him from coming to the Philippines. He said he was told that “there was shooting and fighting on the streets and people getting killed. And that the Filipinos are no good, they hate you, you are Muslim, they are killing Muslims. It’ just like Hitler.”
“Lying dogs, lying people,” he exclaimed. “Filipinos are the sweetest people in the world. I see Muslims and Christians hugging and kissing each other.
The champ lamented foreign news reports picturing the Philippines in a bad light, adding though that he was determined to know the real truth. “When white men in America and even some of my own Muslim brothers told me about those lies, I answered them back I will believe it when I see for myself.”
“And what I’ve been seeing are the exact opposite,” he bewailed.
Frazier, for his part, agreed with his arch-rival’s observation. During the protagonists’ courtesy call on the President and First Lady Imelda Marcos in Malacanan days before the fight, he told the first couple, “the people are loving and peaceful. Filipinos are good, real good.”
Like Ali, the challenger vowed to tell the world about great Filipinos are, as he, likewise, promised to be back time permitting. “I want to be back win or lose, and sing to the Filipinos, who, I found out, are good musicians.”
“I once met one of your people, I forgot his name. All I remember is he’s a musician and, boy, he’s good with the drums. Briefly, we became friends, but I never heard of him again,” Frazier, himself a no non-sense music-lover, told this writer in a one-on-one interview.
Frazier brought with him when he arrived his latest record “First Round Knockout,” which he often sang in social functions during lulls in training in Manila.
Both Ali and Frazier expressed their gratitude to President Marcos and the Filipino people for hosting the third and final chapter of their trilogy.
“I want to thank the President and the Filipino people for giving us, Joe Frazier and myself, the big honor of coming here for this rubber match. It’s a big honor coming from America so far away for two uneducated black boys to reach such heights and to meet such great man of the world, “ Ali stressed.
“ I think this is a blessing from God and we are forever thankful. We will go back to the United States and tell all the people how we were treated. And we hope to give you a good, clean, fair, honest fight,” he vowed.
“It’s been a great pleasure to be here in your country. From the time I have been here, I already enjoy myself,” Smokin Joe said. “The people here are great, fine people. I heard so much about the people here in Manila and I would say, it’s true.”
Of their vows to come back after the fight, only Ali, who won the encounter, made true of it. He came back a year later during the inauguration of a shopping mall inside the Araneta Center named after him.