Now, how about an Ali-Frazier Mall?
For the first time in Manny Pacquiao’s fabulous stint in Las Vegas, he will take an unscheduled pause inside the ring on Saturday night (Sunday morning in Manila) to lead the boxing world in paying tribute to all-time boxing great Joe Frazier, who got knocked out by liver cancer on November 7 at age 67.
There will be the requiem ten-count, to be tolled at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, before Pacquiao clashes with a blown-up Juan Manuel Marquez.
It will be their third fight and speedy hitter Marquez, 38, promises to be at his biggest, but possibly at his slowest.
It’s purely providential that Pacquiao will be representing our entire nation in solemnly and sincerely extolling the fearless ring warrior who, more than Muhammad Ali, had signed the historic Thrilla in Manila vivid with his blood and boundless courage.
Yes, they kept saying there will never be another Thrilla because there was only one Ali.
But no self-respecting critic or fight expert could deny that there would’ve been no Ali the Greatest, if there was no Smokin’ Joe Frazier in the first place.
Bob Arum, who copromoted that all-time classic, which also tried hard to sell the Marcos martial law regime to the world, swore there could be other trilogies, other thrillas, but never again another Thrilla in Manila.
The fight, in its pure ferocity, moved back and fourth, Ali dominating the early rounds, Frazier taking over in the middle rounds.
Ali scored with an unhampered thunderous right midway in the 14th, but by then Frazier, eyes swollen and puffed, was practically blind.
The fight was called off after the end of the 14th round, not by the referee.
Frazier, raring to make a go at it, was stopped on his stool by trainer Eddie Futch.
“Sit down my son, it’s over,” assured the grizzled mentor. “Nobody will forget what you did here today.”
Ali, declared winner by TKO, would later say he had felt like giving up in the 11th round.
Fortunately, trainer Angelo Dundee was quick to shove him in.
Meanwhile, Bundini Brown kept hollering, “God Ali, fight for God Ali, GODDD!”
There was an instant commotion in the Ali corner after the fight ended.
Ali had fainted and fallen on his back.
“It felt like death, it was the closest thing to death,” Ali would mumble after being helped back to his feet.
Arum said the bout, voted by many as the greatest ring war ever, had stayed with him.
After the fight, Arum remembered stepping out to a blazing sun.
Everything felt unreal.
“You want to talk how great boxing can be?” Arum said. “That’s Exhibit A.”
One straying local scribe, who got the luck of winning a ringside ticket to the fight, said it was not a boxing bout.
The bright overhead ring lights repeatedly flashed oiled bronze, defined by hues of rust and blood.
The fight would be likened to a clash of mythical bodies, resembling planets, close to the stars.
Anyway, Pacquiao, for his part, also offered his sincerest condolences and gave words of honest praise to Frazier, whose unbearable hook punch could’ve foreshadowed the Pacman’s feared lighting left shot.
“The world has lost a great champion,” said Ali, who never hesitated to picture Frazier as the foulest, himself the fairest, in selling their fights.
“I will always remember him with respect and admiration, my sympathies to his family and loved ones,” Ali added.
Unlike with Ali, after whom a main mall around Cubao was named, there was nothing to remember Smokin’ Joe by hereabouts.
But how about rededicating that famous mall in classic Cubao as the Ali-Frazier Mall?