The Thrilla in Manila


On a hot summer night in September, 1975, two men met in a 20’ by 20’ ring near the city of Manila in the Philippines.  It was their third meeting, and it had the world’s attention.  Smokin’ Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali.

Frazier had won the first fight on points in fifteen rounds.  It was Ali’s first loss as a professional boxer, and it was a slugfest.  Both fighters had to go to the hospital afterward, and Frazier couldn’t fight again for another ten months.

Ali had taken the second fight on points in twelve rounds three years later.  Then in 1974, Ali became Heavyweight Champion of the World when he knocked out George Foreman at the “Rumble in the Jungle.”  Thus the stage was set for the Frazier-Ali rematch.

In what has been called perhaps the greatest fight of all time, two boxers brought it all to the ring for fourteen rounds.  Most commentators give the first four rounds to Ali, with his precision hits to Frazier’s head.  The next five are typically said to have been dominated by the powerful and determined Frazier.  But during the last four rounds, Ali pummeled Frazier until he was spitting blood and almost blind because of the swelling around his eyes.  He could no longer even see the punches coming.

When the fourteenth round ended, both fighters stumbled to their corners.  Ali told his corner team to cut off his gloves and throw in the towel.  He had taken 440 blows from one of the best fighters in the world.  He was dehydrated by the heat and so weak that he could hardly stand.  Later he would say that the fight was “the closest thing to dyin’ that I know of.”  But instead of cutting off his gloves, Ali’s trainer ignored him.  He wiped his face and sponged him down to prepare him for the final three minutes of the fight.

Could Ali have gone one more round against Frazier?  No one knows for sure.  At the same time Ali was asking his trainer to “cut ‘em off,” Frazier’s trainer was evaluating his fighter.  When the bell rang for the fifteenth and final round, Frazier tried to get up, but his trainer, concerned for the fighter’s health, stopped him, cut off his gloves and said, “Sit down, son.  It’s all over.  No one will ever forget what you did here today.”

As someone has said, “Failure is the path of least persistence.”  You never know.  Sometimes the forces you are up against are just about to “cut off the gloves.”  Sometimes the Enemy is just as exhausted and discouraged as you are.  While you’ve been taking a beating, keep in mind that He may just be watching to see whether or not you will quit first.  A show of determination and persistence may be all it takes to convince him that you can’t be beat, that you’ve tapped into a limitless Power Source that guarantees your ultimate success.

Keep fighting the good fight, and encourage those around you to do the same.

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Filed under Challenges, determination, overcoming obstacles, Persistence, Suffering, Trials

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