• Thrilla in Manila: A gathering of world’s sportswriting giants

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    Bayview Press Bar (above) and Ringside Bar at the Main Press Center (below).

    As early as a month ago before Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali put his world heavyweight crown on the block against ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier on October 1, 1975, foreign journalists had already flown in Manila in what assured the country of massive international exposure it never had gotten before.

    Already in town even before the protagonists flew in were Ronald Bachelor of Reuters, Peter Vincent Bonventre of Newsweek and Mak Kram of Sports Illustrated.

    Joining the trio later were Red Smith and Dave Anderson of the New York Times; Will Grimsley and Ed Schuyler of the Associated Press; and Milt Richman and Bob Stewart of the United Press International.

    Other newsmen, who arrived in the same Philippine Airlines flight from San Francisco ith fighter Ken Norton, who broke Ali’s jaw in their first encounter, were Jerry Izenberg, Newark Star Ledger; Tom Cushman, Philadelpiha News; Dick Schaap, Sports Magazine & Washington Star News; Milt Dunnel, Toronto Star; Bob Wright, Philadelphia Bulletin; Ed Ingles, CBS Radio; Bill Furlong, Washington Post, Bob Waters, Newsday; Tom Dilustro and Tom Cottrell, AP; Vic Ziegel and Leonard Lewin, New York Post; Skip Myslenski, Philadelphia Bulletin; Ed Kolanovsky, AP; Jerry Lisker, National Star; Jim Jacobs, Alice Kwartler, Steve Lott and Sherry Feldman, Big Fights Inc.; Erik Ell, Springer Publishing; Ben Wett, German TV; Rolf Svenson, Alfonblader Sween; Frank Zuba, Big Fights Inc.; Susan Faust; Today Magazine; Wardell Quitman, Gordon Paterson, Don King Productions; Joe Flaherty, Curt Gunther, Camera 5; Franz Wagner, News Revue, Germany; and Sam Skinner, Syndication of Sa Francisco.

    They were whisked by a special reception committee to the then newly-renovated Bayview Plaza fronting the U.S. Embassy and stone’s throw away from the Manila Hilton, Ali’s official residence in his stay in the country.

    Formerly known as Bayview Hotel, the Bayview Plaza provided visiting newsmen with panoramic view of Manila Bay and its beautiful and world-famous sunset. Hotel management blocked off 120 of its best 300 rooms specifically to foreign journalists.

    That was 130 rooms less than the 250 promoter Don King telexed requirements to accommodate in top hotels. Many foreign newsmen though had earlier booked reservations in other hotels. Bayview ended up the main residence for press members.

    A spacious auxiliary press center, to augment the main press center at the Philam Life building, was set up at the 10th floor where newsmen availed of facilities and assistance in their daily coverage. Information officers, mostly staffers of the Department of Public Information, manned both press centers 24/7.

    Although Manila and environs had abundant watering holes for gulping down in course of interview, a discreet Ringside Bar at the Philam main press center and another at Bayview catered to the needs of thirsty media men.

    The bar at the main press room were serving such boxing-related thirst-quenching specialties as Ali’s punch, Rope-a-Dope orange, lemon, pineapple and calamansi juices, and milk and syrup, Manila Gorilla vodka, TKO brandy, Knockout Rhum, among others.

    A selection from Round One Drink, Joe’s Knuckle Punch vodka, which contained local juice from coconut trunk called LAMBANOG that was guaranteed no hangover turned out the favorite among foreign press at Bayview.

    On the day Red Smith and company flew in, there, actually, were 356 Filipino newsmen already frequenting the two press centers daily.

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