1975 Muhammad Ali Fight Worn Shoes from Frazier III Bout, ...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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"Closest thing to dying that I know of." -- Muhammad Ali, after the fight.
1975 Muhammad Ali Fight Worn Shoes from Frazier III Bout, "The
Thrilla in Manila." There was no breeze coming in from the
South China Sea, and the air conditioning system at Araneta
Coliseum was useless. The reported temperature was 107 degrees.
"Oppressive," Ali cornerman Ferdie Pacheco described the thick air
that hung over the ring, "I had a hard time breathing. Not only
were all the seats filled, all the aisles were filled and there
were people crammed in the rafters. I don't know if you could
squeeze in one more person. It was body to body." It was the
perfect, hellish setting for a meeting of two of the most
determined and iron-jawed Heavyweights ever to face off between the
ring ropes, who together authored what is arguably the most famous
and dramatic bout in boxing history.
They had called the first meeting between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier "The Fight of the Century," and it had lived up to that billing. The rematch was a decidedly less compelling affair, and Ali's controversial split decision victory left the boxing world clamoring for a satisfying and definitive conclusion. In Manila, they would find it.
For fourteen rounds in the boiling heat of Southeast Asia, these two iconic Heavyweight Champions waged a war of brutal attrition, Frazier withstanding Ali's deft and elusive early glovework, never slowing his forward progress, never going down. Ali had hoped and expected to make it a quick fight, certain that Frazier's recent decisive loss to Foreman was an indication of his decline. "Joe, they told me you was all washed up," Ali grunted during a seventh-round clinch. "They told you wrong, pretty boy," Frazier growled back.
The tide was beginning to turn, and Frazier dominated the middle rounds. Ali countered with sporadic flurries, and even tried without success to use the "rope-a-dope" strategy that had stymied George Foreman in Zaire, but Frazier was relentless in his onslaught and it appeared that Ali would soon surrender his title.
But somehow, in that hailstorm of blows, the Champion found a second wind, and, once again, the fight shifted on its bloody axis. Ali started to land power shots, and Frazier's legs started to wobble. With Frazier's left eye swollen to a slit, he stood helpless against Ali's straight right. A minute into round thirteen, Ali landed a thudding combination that sent Frazier's mouthpiece spinning into the crowd. Frazier's right eye likewise swelled to a close. Yet he returned for the fourteenth, able to do little more than absorb punishment. He returned to the corner at the bell to trainer Eddie Futch, who told him he'd seen enough.
"I want him, boss!" Frazier protested. "It's all over," Futch replied. "No one will forget what you did here today." Ali biographer Thomas Hauser revealed later that Ali had returned to his own corner at the end of the fourteenth telling trainer Angelo Dundee to cut off his gloves. He, too, had had enough.
Presented are the white leather shoes that were laced to Ali's feet as he claimed the greatest victory of his career in what many consider the most significant bout in the long and storied history of the Heavyweight division. The distinctive style features twenty rows of eyelets per shoe and circular red, white and blue "Everlast" patches at each exterior upper ankle. Solid, sweaty wear is clearly evident.
The shoes were retained by Ali's assistant and close friend Drew "Bundini" Brown, and it is his handwriting we find in blue marker on each interior tongue--"Mo Speeed"--a good luck mantra also present within Ali's shoes from the second Frazier contest. An identifying "Ali-Frazier, Oct 1, 1975" at interior top of each shoe is likewise in Bundini's hand.
The shoes entered the collecting hobby shortly after Brown's death when his collection was sold at auction. Beyond the perfect fidelity to film and photography captured within that sweltering arena, the provenance is secured by signed letters from famed Ali trainer Wali Muhammad and noted boxing collectibles expert Craig Hamilton. Letter of provenance from Wali Muhammad. LOA from Craig Hamilton. LOA from Heritage Auctions.
Thrilla in Manila
Guide Value or Estimate: $100,000 - up.
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