At the age of 31, Frazier had participated in his final title bout, which resulted in a punishing career and damage to his eye. As a result, Frazier and Ali began to slowly decline. Their greatness seemed to scatter in the nearby South China Sea, and the fighters, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, were never the same again.

That was the cost for continuous cruelty seldom seen in boxing, the ultimate battle of heavyweight champions.

In the Philippine capital at the Araneta Coliseum, on October 1, 1975, Ali and Frazier entered the ring for their third and final showdown after a span of 40 years. This historic event, famously known as “The Thrilla in Manila,” captivated the entire world as they stumbled out of the ring.

Eddie Futch, the legendary trainer, retired at the end of the 14th round due to Joe Frazier’s grotesque swelling eye, which had nearly reduced his visibility to zero. Frazier, known for his sharpshooting and vast reservoir of courage, could only offer a feeble resistance against Ali’s deadly left hooks to the head and devastating body attack. As Ali sucked the air out of Frazier’s lungs with his lethal combination, he barely survived the onslaught from his nemesis, “Smokin” Joe. This victory marked Ali’s 13th successful defense of the heavyweight championship.

Their position in the history of boxing was secured, however, their individual assets were significantly reduced.

Jerry Izenberg, a critically acclaimed sports journalist who has written for The Ledger Star Newark since 1951, befriended and covered both the golden era and the covered era.

Once again in the past, when Frazier knew that you were about to win and Ali knew that you were about to win, there has never been a fight with such a decisive ebb and flow in just one minute. The lights in the ring must have been at 110 degrees and there was no air conditioning, only an opening around the arena wall. “I have never seen anything like this before or in the 64 years that I have been working,” he said.

I have seen great rounds, but Round 14 of this fight between Norton Ken and Holmes Larry or Round 15th had a similar motif, like the first round of Hearns Thomas and Hagler Marvin Marvelous.

In Manila, during the preliminary fights, Holmes halted Rodney Bobick. As an inexperienced professional boxer, the eventual champion trained alongside Ali and Frazier. Holmes understands the experience of competing on that particular evening.

Holmes, who emerged victorious over Norton in their monumental battle to claim the heavyweight championship in 1978, expressed, “As time went on, the temperature grew significantly hotter – much hotter. I did experience some fatigue after the initial three rounds, but I possessed ample endurance and had diligently prepared for that bout. Reflecting on it now, the heat didn’t truly impact me as I faced Bobick at 8 in the morning (according to Manila time).”

If someone is trying to take you off your head, it’s impossible to survive only because you are not hardworking. If you’re not perfectly conditioned for fighting at that level, then it’s impossible. After fighting in the dressing room, I weighed myself and I had lost five pounds in an hour. To experience what Joe and Ali went through, you have to be in peak condition.

Accompanied by his father, he went to the Philippines, where he witnessed the subsequent effects and brutality firsthand. Marvis, son of Frazier, was only 15 years old and an amateur boxer at the time of the third Ali bout.

The younger Frazier, who is currently 54, expressed that there was a lot more on the line than solely a championship on that specific day.

My father and I stayed in Manila for a couple of days when we went on vacation. The recovery time was about a month. He didn’t want to risk my father’s life, so he thought it was right for the athlete to be in the ring. He said, “I guess he thought he was the right person for the job,” and Mr. Futch was in charge, acting as the trainer. I thought that he could have gone out in the 15th round, but I guess my father saw a couple of guys die in the ring and didn’t want to take that risk.

It took a long time for the heavy swelling around my father’s face and head to subside, especially in the heat, and it was simply a draining fight.

After the Thrilla, Ali was at least equally injured as Frazier, but the defeated participant in a boxing match generally comes out in a more severe state compared to the victor.

Ali managed to carry out his post-fight duties, but he was worn out and frazzled. The champion’s head was covered in bumps from Frazier’s “well-placed” punches, which hindered his maneuverability and resulted in huge hematomas on both hips. After the fight, Ali could barely walk and had to gingerly lift himself off the stool in his corner to acknowledge his victory.

Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, who served as the champion’s personal physician from 1962 to 1977 and was present in Manila, expressed, “Ali endured a significant thrashing and ultimately succumbed to a period of rest in bed for a few weeks.” “The following day, he did converse with Joe, who displayed minimal responsiveness, and that was likely the last thing Frazier needed. Ali promptly began his chant, ‘Joe Frazier, prepare yourself, you deserve a rematch. You nearly defeated me this time, so you have a chance.’ Joe halfheartedly smiled and the exchange of banter occurred in the usual one-sided manner.”

There will be no rematch.

In their 1976 rematch, Frazier was brutally beaten to a loss in five rounds by George Foreman, and following a five-year hiatus in 1981, he tied with an unremarkable Jumbo Cummings. With his eyesight deteriorating and abilities diminishing, Frazier would step into the boxing ring only two more times.

Ali’s durability became his biggest liability as he reduced the wearing down of his own shock-absorber approach to opposition, but he rarely hit his peak. His victory in the costly match proved to be famous, making his strategy of employing the legendary “Rope-a-Dope” almost suicidal. Despite sparring hundreds of rounds in Manila following the famous match, Ali remained champion for more than two years.

Holmes, who engaged in professional boxing until he reached the age of 52, continued to be unimpressed both in the past and currently.

He stated, “Ali consistently found himself backed against the ropes, allowing Joe and other individuals to relentlessly strike him. One cannot engage in such a strategy as it eventually takes its toll and results in harm to the fighters. During my match with Norton, I endured a significant amount of punishment in the latter half, but I managed to completely evade any harm in the initial half, enabling me to recover swiftly. I never permitted individuals to relentlessly strike me.”

In September, Norton Ken came third in a bout against Young Jimmy, where his slide of evidence provided was most stark. Although Young Jimmy was deemed fortunate to win elusive points against the Philadelphian, Richard Dunn and Jean-Pierre Coopman woefully overmatched Ali, stopping him in the following year.

In 1973, the former marine had fractured Ali’s jaw and emerged victorious, and he nearly replicated the achievement five months later, when he suffered a narrow split decision loss.

Izenberg was there at the decisive match, which the titleholder won controversially based on points.

He stated, “Ali was experiencing a decline and no longer possessed the same level of motivation. When he faced Norton at Yankee Stadium, Ali found himself lacking the necessary resources, but he was able to maintain a competitive edge. Kenny reduced his throwing efforts in the later rounds, and despite Ali’s lack of dynamism, he still managed to land some punches. Ali did not emerge as the victor; Kenny voluntarily relinquished that fight.”

If you were to go back two or three years, you couldn’t have seen Earnie Shavers hit him with a shovel on his rear end. Ali told me that there were times when he was unconscious, and I’ve seen that Earnie Shavers was the greatest one-punch hitter I’ve ever witnessed. Have you seen the fight between Ali and Earnie Shavers, where Ali showed how far he had gone?

‘Due to the fog, I couldn’t see the watch over there. In 1977 (approximately), he did a commercial for Raid bug spray, which was called “The Bug Raid.” The other commercial he did was for a bug spray called Raid. Ali and Foreman were magnificent and funny in the TV show we watched before the fight. We went to see him with two video tapes and implored him not to quit before the fight. Just before the fight, I spoke to Ali and he was articulate and funny.’

He asked Ali if he could see the difference and requested tapes of both of those that I played. I knew I was wasting my time, and he said no.

Pacheco lost one of the most loyal members of his inner circle after Ali’s deteriorating health raised concerns about his ability to withstand the battery of tests he had undergone. This happened following the fight against Shavers, where Pacheco collected the results.

At the age of 87, Pacheco expressed, “His declining reflexes and overall state were clearly evident. That was sufficient for me. I instructed Ali to cease, but his group insisted on his continuation. As a physician, I had to depart. Once I made my decision, there was no further conversation with Ali. In short, I left.”

Ali’s exit from the boxing world was prophetic, as it foreshadowed the struggles he would face in his next four fights. The first of these losses came against Leon Spinks, a novice with only seven fights under his belt. This embarrassing defeat in February 1978 cost Ali his title, but he followed it up with a victory seven months later, reclaiming his status as the three-time heavyweight champion. The following year, Ali retired as the WBA titleholder, but he was lured back into the ring after a two-year hiatus to face the formidable Larry Holmes. Unfortunately, Ali’s corner was forced to stop the fight due to the frightful beating he was receiving. This was the first time Ali had been knocked out, and it marked the end of his illustrious career. Finally, in December 1981, Ali’s career came to a close when he was outpointed by Trevor Berbick, a Canadian slugger, in a 10-round fight in the Bahamas.

Meanwhile, Joe Frazier, the former champion of Philadelphia, worked with scores of prospects, including his son, to ultimately take a shot at the heavyweight championship.

Marvis said, “He was a great trainer and he always kept me motivated in my father’s gym.” He would often tell me that he made me more determined and that I didn’t have the desire. I fought 21 times as a professional and only lost to two Hall of Fame fighters, Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes. I clearly wasn’t ready, but I fought Larry. I can’t blame my father for the first-round knockout that brought me down.

Frazier, whose last fight took place eight days prior to Ali’s encounter with Berbick, was satisfied with his retirement.

Marvis said, “He was always conducted like a champion himself, and he was once the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. He explained to me that he was a famous person and I should appreciate him, and he told me that people loved him. He made me bring back the boy, but I was only a kid. My father told me to never dismiss someone like that and he made me bring back the boy, but I was only a kid. I was tired of waiting because he told me he couldn’t have one and he couldn’t have one. There was a time when he was signing autographs and I was tired of waiting. I didn’t really miss the fight game because everybody loved him.”

It’s not necessarily a bad thing when someone considers the damage and doesn’t see it as just another fight. We might never see another day like the Thrilla in Manila, but it is worth remembering the sacrifices made by Frazier and Ali, and it will always be celebrated.