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Legend of the 'Thrilla in Manila'

He beat Muhammad Ali in the Fight of the Century, battled him nearly to the death in the Thrilla in Manila, then Joe Frazier spent the rest of his life trying to fight his way out of Ali's shadow.

That was one fight Frazier could never win.

He was once a heavyweight champion, and a great one at that. Ali would say as much after Frazier knocked him down in the 15th round en route to becoming the first man to beat Ali, at Madison Square Garden in March 1971.

But he bore the burden of being Ali's foil, and he paid the price. Bitter for years about the taunts his former nemesis once threw his way, Frazier only in recent times came to terms with what happened in the past and said he had forgiven Ali for everything he said.

They fought three times, twice in New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Philippines. They went 41 rounds together, with neither giving an inch and both giving it their all.

In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervour that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights. Frazier gave almost as good as he got for 14 rounds.

"They told me Joe Frazier was through," Ali told Frazier at one point during the fight. "They lied," Frazier said, hitting Ali with a left hook.

Finally, though, Frazier simply couldn't see and his trainer would not let him go out for the 15th round.

Ali won the fight while on his stool, exhausted and contemplating himself whether to go on.

"Closest thing to dying that I know of," Ali said afterwards.


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