I’m not a boxing expert and don’t pretend to be one and I haven’t followed boxing very closely for almost twenty-years now since the heavyweight division went into the toilet as if it was flushed down. But The Thrilla in Manila at least to me is at the very least the best heavyweight division fight of all-time. It represents the best and the worst of boxing. Two big strong men literally beating the hell out of each other. In a way it was like an Old West shootout where the last man standing won. But even Old West shootouts generally had winners. This fight was more like a divorce. Where there wasn’t real winner. Just a survivor who was slightly better off than the man he beat. This fight was only stopped, because Joe Frazier was literally blind at the end of it. Thats how much this fight took out of both men.
The Thrilla in Manila was the last fight in the greatest trilogy again at least in the heavyweight division. Which is the only division in boxing that I follow at all. Smokin Joe won the first fight in 1971 and Muhammad won the second fight in 73 and beat the man who beat Joe for the heavyweight championship in 1974, which of course was George Forman. So yes the third fight was again for the Heavyweight Championship of the World for the second time and Joe wanted it back. But as they said in this film The Thrilla in Manila was about the World Heavyweight Championship of each other. The right to say that they were better than the other. That they were the best heavyweight of their generation and of the 1970s. You could still argue about Larry Holmes, but they both would’ve had a good case had they won this fight.
The Thrilla in Manila looks like to me what it would have been like had Germany fought Japan at the end of World War II. Imagine had they destroyed each other during that war instead of getting their assess handed to them by America and the Western Allies and literally destroyed each other, but didn’t know how to give up. And kept going on until neither one had one fighter and one weapon left. That is what this fight was like. Two big strong men beating the hell out of each other until one literally couldn’t take it anymore and was literally knocked out, or gave up. That is why I say this fight represents boxing at its best and worst. Two guys in the primes giving everything they had against the other, but beating each other up so much that they caused real physical damage to the other.