The Thrilla in Manila was over and as Muhammad Ali himself said, “We went to Manila as champions, Joe and me, and we came back as old men.”
It was a good thing Joe Frazier’s trainer Eddie Futch kept his ward from coming out for the 15th and final round or “Smokin” Joe might have died in the ring.
Or Muhammad Ali, who had successfully defended his world heavyweight title as a consequence, would have had to go out there again, too, and he might not have lasted long himself. He was near the end of his rope.
Ali, summing it up best, said right in his dugout while reclining, exhausted on the table, said: “I always bring out the best in the men I fight, but Joe Frazier, I’ll tell the whole world right now, bring out the best in me. That’s one helluva man, and God bless him.”
A wilted Ali told sportswriters: I’m happy there are no more Joe Frazier to fight. I will never call him a gorilla again, “ he vowed then summoned Frazier’s son Marvis and told him: “ Tell your dad the things I said I really didn’t mean.”
Told of what Ali said, the fallen challenger told Marvis: “Tell him to tell that to me personally himself.”
Frazier then turned to everybody who cared to listen saying, “ Man, I hit him with punches that’d bring the walls of a city. Lawdy … lawdy… he’s a great champion!”
The former slaughterhouse hand fulfilled the promise he made to media men to host a victory party for them at his hotel where he danced and sang all night long with friends, including Games and Amusements Board chair and fight co-promoter Louie Tabuena and agriculture secretary Arturo “Bong” Tangco.
Ali was rushed to the hospital right after the encounter for emergency treatment before attending a victory party hosted in his honor by First Lady Imelda Marcos at Malacanang Palace.
The next morning in his Hilton Hotel suite, he confessed he had been urinating blood since fight night. “Everything in me is on flame.” His right hand was in pain and swollen. He tried to make a fist but couldn’t.
“What this man do to me?” he asked. “Why do I do this? He asked looking at the scenic Manila Bay. “Couple of times like I was leaving my body. The animal could have killed me. That man weren’t human in there. I must be crazy for what? This is it for me. It’s over.”
Back at Frazier’s hotel, Futch was talking by way of explaining why he threw in the towel. “Joe’s puffed up. By the thirteenth, he could rarely see. His face was mess, and I wanted to stop it right there. But he wanted one more round.”
Joe confessed to this writer once that he’ been fighting half blind all his pro-career caused by injury while still an amateur and this only people close to him knew.
“When I saw him barely walked to his corner with the help of referee (Carlos) Padilla, I knew he’ had enough,” he recalled. “I said, it ain’t worth getting his brain scrambled. Joe’s got a fine family and a great future. I stopped it. I ain’t sorry.”
“Joe just couldn’t take one more round. I told him, son, If you couldn’t see him the last few rounds, how can you be sure you can see him in the 15th,” Futch said.