‘Like death’ — how ‘Thrilla in Manila’ changed Ali, Frazier forever

‘Like death’ — how ‘Thrilla in Manila’ changed Ali, Frazier forever
The Thrilla in Manila heavyweight boxing bout had Joe Frazier beaten nearly blind and Muhammad Ali on the verge of surrender. (AP/File)
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Updated 13 May 2020

‘Like death’ — how ‘Thrilla in Manila’ changed Ali, Frazier forever

‘Like death’ — how ‘Thrilla in Manila’ changed Ali, Frazier forever
  • ‘It was like death. Closest thing to dyin’ that I know of,’ says the Louisville Lip of the bout

MANILA: When Muhammad Ali survived 14 brutal rounds with Joe Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manila” 45 years ago, it wrote a page in boxing folklore but left both men forever diminished.

Fought in the Philippines’ stifling daytime heat, with barely functioning air conditioning, Frazier was beaten nearly blind and Ali was on the verge of surrender.

In the end, it was Frazier’s trainer who threw in the towel to hand Ali victory on Oct. 1, 1975, settling their head-to-head 2-1. But the fight came at a cost to both men.

“Ali and Frazier would never be the same again, after pouring and spending practically all their power and durability in Manila,” said Recah Trinidad, a Philippine boxing columnist.

“The fighters went to destroy, not merely to outfight each other,” he added.

Ali, who had beaten George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire a year earlier, came into the fight at 33, his best years well behind him.

They battled inside the 25,000-seat Araneta Coliseum with such ferocity that spectators including Imelda Marcos, wife of then-Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, were spattered with blood.

“It was like death. Closest thing to dyin’ that I know of,” Ali later said of the bout.

Ali set an acrimonious tone in the weeks leading to the fight, enraging Frazier, 31, by likening him to a giant ape.

“It’s gonna be a thrilla, and a chilla, and a killa, when I get the gorilla in Manila,” Ali boasted, coining the nickname that still resonates today.

On fight day the momentum swung back and forth between the men, who were in their third and final matchup. The fight in the tropics was staged in the daytime to suit US television audiences, but the crowd and TV lights overwhelmed the air-conditioning.

“At 125 degrees —  we were fighting each other (as well as) against the heat,” Frazier said in the 2008 documentary “Thrilla in Manila.” 

Ali’s blows had swollen Frazier’s right eye nearly shut, and he was nearly blind in his left due to a training injury.

His face soaked in blood, Frazier argued with his trainer Eddie Futch to let him come out for the 15th round, but Futch stopped the fight.

Later, it was revealed that Ali himself wanted to quit. His biographer Thomas Hauser told the 2008 documentary that at the end of the round an Ali cornerman heard the champion telling trainer Angelo Dundee to “cut ‘em (gloves) off.” 

“Round 14 was the closest I’ve seen somebody come to killing somebody,” Ali’s fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco told the documentary makers. But after the Thrilla, “both men were never the same again,” said Nick Giongco, a sports analyst at the Manila Bulletin.

He said that although Ali would defend his world title a further six times, and regain it in a rematch after losing to Leon Spinks in 1978, the self-styled “Greatest of All Time” never fully recovered from the “brutal beatdown” Frazier had inflicted.

Ali would finally hang up his gloves in 1981 aged 39, following consecutive losses to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick. He retired with a win-loss record of 56-5.

The “Louisville Lip” died nearly four years ago after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“Smokin’ Joe” (32-4-1) fought only twice more after the Manila epic, being stopped by Foreman for a second time in 1976 before coming out of retirement five years later to draw with the unheralded Floyd Cummings over 10 rounds. Frazier died in 2011.


Mourinho says pressure at Spurs ‘like oxygen’

Mourinho says pressure at Spurs ‘like oxygen’
Updated 27 February 2021

Mourinho says pressure at Spurs ‘like oxygen’

Mourinho says pressure at Spurs ‘like oxygen’

LONDON: Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho said on Friday that being under pressure was “like oxygen” for him as he seeks to turn around the club’s terrible Premier League form.
Mourinho’s job has come under scrutiny after a run of five Premier League defeats in six games left them ninth in the table — nine points outside the top four.
But the Portuguese, whose team topped the table in December, said it was just part of the job.
“The problem is if you don’t have pressure,” he said. “I felt in trouble when I was at home and did not have pressure for a few months.
“That’s the problem. It comes like oxygen, it is our life; I don’t think there is any coach in the world without objectives or any kind of pressure.
“You just get used to it and also used to the way the press is at the time, you just have to adapt to it.”
Mourinho said earlier this week that he was confident he would be remembered for the right reasons at Spurs despite overseeing a collapse in their form during his first full season in charge.
The poor run in the league is unprecedented for the 58-year-old in a long and mostly successful managerial career at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
However, Tottenham’s season could still be saved by success in cup competitions.
Spurs will meet Dinamo Zagreb in the last 16 of the Europa League after completing an 8-1 aggregate win over Austrian side Wolfsberg this week.
Mourinho’s men also face Premier League leaders Manchester City in the League Cup final in April — looking to win their first silverware
in 13 years.
 


Solskjaer wary of Chelsea challenge in battle for top four

Solskjaer wary of Chelsea challenge in battle for top four
Updated 27 February 2021

Solskjaer wary of Chelsea challenge in battle for top four

Solskjaer wary of Chelsea challenge in battle for top four

LONDON: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the race for the Premier League top four will go down to the wire as Manchester United prepare to face Thomas Tuchel’s revitalized Chelsea on Sunday.
United were knocked off top spot by Manchester City on Jan. 26 and a run of just two wins in six top-flight matches means they are now 10 points behind their rivals.
Second-placed United head to the Etihad Stadium for a Manchester derby clash on March 7 but before then they have back-to-back fixtures away to London clubs, with Sunday’s match against Chelsea followed by Wednesday’s game with Crystal Palace.
“We’ve got Chelsea just behind us, we’ve got City away in front of us,” said Solskjaer.
“Of course we can’t let them run further away if we have ambitions of catching them and we can’t give Chelsea too much hope to catch us either.”
Solskjaer believes United are over their recent wobble ahead of the match at Stamford Bridge, where Tuchel has made an impressive impact since succeeding Frank Lampard last month.
The Blues have yet to lose under the German and can halve the six-point gap to United on Sunday as the race for Champions League qualification spots heats up.
“You can see the results, you can see the stats, the possession they’ve had, they keep teams away from their own goal, keep the possession,” Solskjaer said.
“He’s (Tuchel) done really well ... It’s never easy coming into a season halfway through so he must be pleased as well. Hopefully we can stop that run. That’s my job now.”
The Norwegian predicted a tense battle for Champions League places with a third of the season still to go.
City, United, Leicester and West Ham are currently in the top four but a clutch of teams, including Chelsea and champions Liverpool, harbor ambitions of dislodging them.
“I don’t think the positions will be decided early,” said former United striker Solskjaer.
“With this season as well, it’s unpredictable. We’ve seen teams going through bad phases then a run and then who knows what’s going to happen with injuries, with how players react to the circumstances.”
Solskjaer’s remarks came as Manchester United and AC Milan prepare to meet in the round of 16 of the Europa League, putting 39-year-old forward Zlatan Ibrahimović up against his former English club.
Ibrahimovic played for United for two years, including in the 2016-17 season when United won its only Europa League title.
Milan, a seven-time European Cup champion, has never won the Europa League or its predecessor the UEFA Cup — the only continental title it is missing.
“It’s one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game,” Solskjaer said on Friday.
United dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in its Champions League group. Milan last played in the top-tier competition in 2014.
Both teams are on track to qualify for the next Champions League, in second place in their domestic leagues trailing crosstown rivals Manchester City and Inter Milan, respectively.
“They’re on the up and have done really well this season,” Solskjaer said of Milan, who are scheduled to visit Old Trafford for the first leg on March 11.
The return leg at San Siro is one week later.
Arsenal will face Olympiakos and go back to Piraeus for its second straight game in the competition.
The London team used Olympiakos’ stadium as a neutral venue on Thursday and beat Benfica 3-2 in the “home” leg in the round of 32.
Arsenal and Olympiakos will be meeting in a European competition for the sixth time in the past 12 seasons. Olympiakos won in the last 32 a year ago.
Two-time UEFA Cup champion Tottenham will face Dinamo Zagreb and play the first leg in Croatia, while 1992 champion Ajax is at home first against Swiss club Young Boys.
 


Nyck de Vries makes history by winning Diriyah E-Prix in first ever Formula E night race

Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
Updated 26 February 2021

Nyck de Vries makes history by winning Diriyah E-Prix in first ever Formula E night race

Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz won the first leg of a historic Diriyah E-Prix double-header to become the first driver to ever win a Formula E race taking place at night. (Supplied)
  • This was the third time that Riyadh has held a Formula E event, and the second time that it has been the season-opening race

DIRIYAH, Saudi Arabia: Nyck de Vries of Mercedes-Benz EQ created Formula E history after winning the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix, the first time the electric-car series has ever taken place at night.

The first of a double-header of races taking place in Riyadh over, the weekend was also the first since Formula E was granted championship status by the FIA. It is the third time that event has taken place in Saudi Arabia, and the second that it has kicked off a new season.

“Thank you to everyone at the team, because I know it sounds like a cliche, but everyone honestly worked really hard to get here, so thank you,” de Vries said immediately after his win.

The delighted Dutchman was congratulated by the President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Faisal, after receiving a winner’s trophy on the podium for the first time in his Formula E career.

Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi Racing, racing in Diriyah for the third time, finished second, while Mitch Evans of Jaguar Racing was third and Rene Last of Audi Sport ABT SCHAEFFlER fourth.

“The race was a tough one to manage,” de Vries added. “It wasn’t exactly clear what pace we were going to burn, and that has a consequence on the energy distribution across the 45 minutes. There was lot of communication going on, quite a few safety cars to mange. I’m very pleased.”

Runner-up Mortara lauded what his team has been able to achieve against some of Formula E’s bigger names.

“It’s obviously good to be back here, to be back on the podium,” he said. “We had an okay (2019-20) season, I mean, for sure, the first seven races were actually quite okay. You have to remember that we are probably the smallest team in the Formula E paddock, it’s not easy for us to get good results when we are facing as a team big manufactures with lot more resources than us. I’m extremely happy, it’s been a really good day, super competitive and hopefully it’s going to be the same tomorrow.”

Mortara had pulled off one of the highlights of the race when he overtook Pascal Wehrlein of TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team on his way to finishing second.

“I think it was crucial to pass Pascal,” the Swiss driver said. “The vehicle seemed to be quite smooth after taking his first attack mode and… I got lucky, there was not one millimetre more of distance like between my car and his car and I just went for it and I have to say thank you also to Mitch because he let me drive through the gap and yeah, very happy with the second place and the overtaking manoeuvre.

De Vries had started in pole position and never once let go of his lead, despite disruptions that saw the introduction of the safety car on several occasions.

In the early laps he looked looked to put some distance between himself and the chasing pack, as in his rear-view mirror the narrow streets of the Diriyah track ensured the challengers remained bunched up with little chance of overtaking.

Sam Bird of Jaguar Racing made a move into sixth position, just behind team-mate Mitch Evans, on lap 8, signalling his intention to attack the field in front of him. But his progress did not last long.

On lap 17, Bird collided with Alex Lynn of Mahindra Racing, requiring the safety car to come out for the first time, but not the last, in the race. Lynn had to depart the race, while Bird returned when the race restarted.

A few laps later, Maximilian Günther of BMW i Andretti Motorsport slid off and slammed into the barriers, and again the safety car was called into actin.

But each time the race restarted, de Vries kept this composure and in the end managed to cross the finish line four seconds ahead of Mortara, to experince the joy of winning a Formula E race for the first time in his career.

It was disappointing race for champion Antonio Felix de Costa of DS Techeetah — winners of the  2019-20 Team Championship — who finished in 11th position.

The second race of the season will once again take place at night on the Diriyah track on Saturday.


Formula E partnership with Saudi Arabia very strong, built on common goals — CEO

Formula E partnership with Saudi Arabia very strong, built on common goals — CEO
Updated 26 February 2021

Formula E partnership with Saudi Arabia very strong, built on common goals — CEO

Formula E partnership with Saudi Arabia very strong, built on common goals — CEO
  • We are honored to be able to race in Diriyah, says Formula E CEO
  • Reigle said the drivers are very much in tune with the Diriyah race circuit

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s partnership with Formula E is very strong, and based on trust, mutual respect and common goals, said CEO Jamie Reigle on Thursday.
“The relationship that we have is what made us return to the Kingdom this year to hold the Formula E championship in Diriyah, and elsewhere in the coming years,” he said in an interview with Saudi Press Agency.
Reigle said the drivers are very much in tune with the Diriyah race circuit and want to race there again, which “shows the success of Formula E’s strategic relationship with the Kingdom.”
Diriyah is set to host the 2021 E-Prix on Feb. 26 and 27, which will also double up as the championship’s first night race.
Reigle said he was optimistic about the tournament’s success, in light of the great support it receives from the Saudi government and the previous success it has achieved in similar editions.
He also said this year’s championship is distinguished in that it is being held at night, and in spite of the coronavirus pandemic which was taken into account, and strict precautionary measures have been put in place, in accordance with the Kingdom’s health protocol.
“We work under harsh conditions around the world regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and from a sports perspective, we believe that sport can inspire and bring hope to people and may show a way to return to normal life.
“But on the other hand, we are working in a very difficult context and we have to adhere to the protocols and procedures approved by the Kingdom’s government to make the tournament a success, as first and foremost, is protecting the health and safety of all participants,” Reigle said.
This weekend’s races will be the third time that the E-Prix is being held in Diriyah, an ancient UNESCO World Heritage site.
“It is clear that Diriyah is an important cultural environment for the Kingdom, so we are honored to be able to race there,” Reigle said.
He said this year’s Formula E races in the Kingdom would utilize modern equipment and would be “pushing the boundaries” by using low-energy LED lights, that have high-brightness and 50 percent less energy consumption, in addition to sustainable fuel made from recycled material as an energy source.
He also said that night races changes the sporting dynamic a little, and poses a new challenge for drivers as it will be the first time they experience this type of racing. Moreover, the nights are cooler which will have implications on battery temperatures.
“When you talk to drivers about the racetrack, they say it is their favorite track,” he said, adding that the circuit is “very special and I think it is a testament to the Kingdom and its commitment to showcasing world-class international events, and we are very proud of that.”
He added that being in Saudi Arabia “is very important for us as we are able to display our product in the country.”
Reigle also spoke about the TV coverage of the event for racing fans at home.
“We have a great partnership this year with Saudi Arabia and the sports carrier here in the Kingdom where we will show the races live,” he said. “We really hope that people will participate and get excited to see our teams and drivers perform under the spotlight on Friday and Saturday.”


New partnership aiming to drive Jaguar Racing towards Formula E championship challenge

New partnership aiming to drive Jaguar Racing towards Formula E championship challenge
Updated 26 February 2021

New partnership aiming to drive Jaguar Racing towards Formula E championship challenge

New partnership aiming to drive Jaguar Racing towards Formula E championship challenge
  • The British team goes into the new season with Mitch Evans and Sam Bird at the helm

DUBAI: New season. New partnerships. New goals.

For Jaguar Racing Team Principal James Barclay, the Diriyah E-Prix double-header is a chance to make a assault on the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, having finished seventh last time out.

“We're really pleased to be back in Diriyah and this track is actually becoming very quickly a real favorite to the drivers. It's really fast, really flowing, really technical, it's a real challenge for the drivers,” he said. “You're getting up to some very high speeds, and in sector two and three it's very, very challenging so it's got a combination of slow speed, to really high speed, to really demanding corners that kind of require a lot of bravery from the drivers. So they love it for that reason and we love it.”

This year, the drivers will be experiencing another first at Diriyah; racing at night under revolutionary, for racing at least, LED lighting.

“The simple fact is, it’s this kind of unique style of circuit but importantly as well what we're doing here in the first ever night race, which is kind of groundbreaking,” he’s said. “Formula E takes the rulebook rips it up and writes a new way of racing. Racing under floodlights for the first time powered by fully sustainable source is a really important message as well so not only is it going to be great for fans to enjoy but behind it all is a really important message behind sustainability as well.”

Jaguar Racing’s two drivers for the 2020-21 season are Briton Sam Bird, who replaced James Calado, Mitch Evans, the who joined the team in 2016.

“It’s been an incredible experience, I’m very fortunate to be with Jaguar from the start actually, I joined Formula E at the same time (as the team) as a rookie and it’s been a great journey,” the Kiwi driver said. “We’ve had some great memories, some ups and downs, but you know it’s been great to be together for this time and it’s important to build that relationship and trust within the team and I really feel part of the brand and the whole technical team.”

Evans, who has racked up two wins and six podiums, is hoping that the team can be among the challengers for the championship.

“We were leading at one point during the championship and unfortunately slipped down to seventh towards the end so yeah definitely the goal is to aim for the championship overall,” Evans added. “If we can’t do that, we want to finish as high up as possible, hopefully with more race wins and good memories. But ultimately we want to be fighting for the championship.”

Helping him reach the goal is Bird, who already has nine Formula E wins and 19 podiums to his name. The Jaguar Racing management are delighted he’s joined.

“We're really fortunate to have Sam join the team, we've kind of always been talking about his potential to come to Jaguar,” said Barclay. “For us, it’s his experience, the only driver to win a race in every single season in Formula E is Sam Bird. We love his kind of approach to racing. He's a real fighter you know, he's probably one of the best overtakers in Formula E we’ve seen. The pairing of the two of them is for us really compelling and it's a good position for us to be in to have two drivers of that caliber.”

In the last week Jaguar Racing has also welcomed Micro Focus as its official Digital Transformation, Business Resiliency and Analytics partner.

“Fundamentally they're going to allow us to analyze our huge amount of data quicker and make even smarter decisions as a team,” Barclay added. “So, we’re really proud to have them on board, they're not only supporting our program but they're actually making us faster at the same time and that's the ideal combination.”

Above all, Jaguar Racing’s vision aligns completely with that of Formula E, in more ways than one. Barclay says sustainability is the only way forward.

“We were the first premium manufacturer to commit to Formula E with our full team,” Barclay said. “We manufactured our powertrain and ran the team, and for us it’s because we saw the future is about going electric. Quite simple, the cars that we drive now will be all-electric in the future and that’s been driven by regulation change around the world in many countries now. They’ve set the date for when internal combustion engines will stop, so for us, absolutely it’s the future.

Barclay confirmed that the Jaguar Reimagined strategy, announced last week, will ensure that the Jaguar brand will be all-electric by 2025.

“We’ve made a very clear statement as a brand, and Formula E is our perfect testbed and proving ground for electric vehicle technologies,” he said. “That makes the products we offer to our customers even better, but importantly, we are showcasing at a global level the benefits of electric vehicle from a sustainable mobility perspective as well.”