Lull before the storm


Joe Frazier’s first two days in Manila since his arrival proved to be relatively quiet as compared to the following tumultuous two weeks immediately before the final episode of his trilogy with world defending heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali called “Thrilla in Manila” on the first of October, 1975.

The morning following his setting foot in the country’s capital on September 13, “Smokin” Joe was at the north side of the Roxas Boulevard strip in Pasay City for his first roadwork amidst an unusual, 4:30 a.m. traffic snarl-up caused by people who wanted to see him in flesh for the first time.

“Smokin” Joe Frazier performs his roadwork at the north side of the Roxas Boulevard strip in Pasay City. PHOTO FROM EDDIE ALINEA’S FILE

He ran with a few aides although some 30 joggers joined them in the 2-mile trek from the starting point in front of his official residence Hyatt Regency Hotel, a number that swelled to 50 then a hundred as Frazier and the party neared the one-way end of the distance southward to El Dorado Hotel.

His trainers said no one will be allowed the run starting the following day on, including newsmen. Only one journalist will be allowed—this writer—who was Joe’s press liaison officer. A phalanx of vehicles cruised alongside in Joe’s first day roadwork.

That led to a plan to hold the roadwork during curfew hours to eliminate hangers on.

Chief trainer Eddie Futch and assistant George Benton oversaw gym workout in the afternoon at the Folk Arts Theater.

Most notable happening that day was a belated birthday party tendered by Mr. and Mrs. Francisco Delgado, whose family owned the Manila Hilton Hotel (now Holiday Inn), the would-be official residence of Ali, in honor of Joe’s son Marvis who turned 15 on September 12 when Frazier and party were still on the plane.

From the day Joe and party arrived, the Manila Punchline, a newsletter aimed at tying together he whole news picture of the daily happenings on the road to the Ali-Frazier showdown also dubbed as ‘Super Fight III,” came out with its first edition.

Prepared by the staffers of the Philippines New Agency, Bureau of National and Foreign Information and National Media Production Center, the publication was designed to provide a quick read-in for local and foreign correspondents covering the event.

With the arrival of Ali the following day the remaining days leading to the championship bout will turn upside down to be highlighted by antics coming from the title-defending Ali, including his continued taunting, teasing and insults directed to Frazier in the name of selling the promotion.

There, for instance will be Ali’s sneaking into Frazier’s training sessions at the FAT, his going to his challenger’s hotel threatening to shoot the latter an the scandalous arrival of his first wife Belinda that led to their eventual separation.


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