Monday, April 27, 2015

Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier

I finished reading Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. I bought the book in 2011 and it has been sitting in my stack of books to read. With so much buzz around the Mayweather Pacquiao fight, I finally decided to pick it up.

Written by Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram, the book is roughly in three parts. First, it looks at Ali and Frazier's life before the their third fight in Manila. Kram explores their childhoods and the environments in which they grew up. The book spends a lot of time on Ali's relationship with the Nation of Islam. After touching briefly on their first two fights, the second part of the book looks at The Thrilla in Manila. Fought on October 1, 1975 in temperatures approaching 100 °F, it is considered one of the best fights in history. Finally, the book looks at each man after the fight in Manila. It focuses on the effects the fight had on each fighter.

Mark Kram covered boxing for Sports Illustrated. He traveled extensively with both men. The book weaves in a large number of conversations that he personally had with the boxers.

I enjoyed the book. The fact that the author knew both men makes the story feel more intimate. While Kram appreciates Ali as a fighter, he paints a pretty unflattering picture of him as a person...

I watched The Thrilla in Manila over the weekend. The film focuses on the fight and its aftermath as told from Joe Frazier's perspective. The movie is a nice supplement to the book. I also found The Thrilla in Manila on youtube. I am going to watch the whole fight in the next couple of days.

One interesting footnote. The book speculates that Frazier won most of career almost blind in his left eye. In the film, Joe Frazier acknowledges that this was true.

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