Ghosts of Manila
The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe FrazierBook - 2001
Ali stared above the gathering into infinity, his mouth angry, yes blank, then screamed: "Joe Frazier should give his face to the Wildlife Fund! He so ugly, blind men go the other way!...He not only looks bad! You can smell him in another country!" He held his nose. "Mat will the People in Manila think? We can't have a gorilla for a champ. They're gonna think, lookin' at him, that all black brothers are animals. Ignorant. Stupid. Ugly. If he's champ again, other nations will laugh at us."
Joe turned and gunned a hole in the thin wood of the wall, then flipped over his desk. "Eddie, listen up! Whatever you do, whatever happens, don't stop the fight! We got nowhere to go after this. I'm gonna eat this half-breed's heart right out of his chest!...I mean it...This is the end of him or me."
When Muhammad Ali met Joe Frazier in Manila for the third, bloody act of their heroic trilogy of fights, the rivalry had spun out of control. More than a clash of personalities or fighting styles, the Ali-Frazier matchup had become a kind of madness, inflamed by the media and the politics of race. When the "Thrilla in Manila" was over, the hype no longer mattered: one man was left with a ruin of a life; the other was battered to his soul.
Mark Kram's riveting book begins with the boxers themselves -- who they are and who they were. Interweaving present and past, and told in a voice as powerful as a heavyweight punch, Kram explodes the hagiography surrounding both fighters-particularly Ali. While giving Ali his due as arguably the best fighter of all time, Kram paints a much darker and nuanced version of the legend than anyone has ever dared. Ghosts of Manila is a masterpiece of literary journalism that is sure to take its place alongside A. J. Liebling's The Sweet Science.
Ghosts of Manila is a psychologically riveting study of two heroes, many myths, and the reality behind it all.