BOXING : Veteran Reporter, Referee Describe Manila Fight as Thrilla of Lifetime

NBC-TV will replay a classic today, showing Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III, “the Thrilla in Manila,” in its entirety.

Ed Schuyler, the Associated Press’ boxing reporter since 1969, has covered 205 championship bouts. He was asked where he ranks the Thrilla in Manila, which Ali won. Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, asked that the fight be stopped after the 14th round.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. May 13, 1990 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday May 13, 1990 Home Edition Sports Part C Page 9 Column 2 Sports Desk 2 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Boxing--In the Saturday boxing column, it was reported that the “Thrilla In Manila,” the third Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight, was held in an outdoor stadium. Actually, it was held indoors. It also was reported that Ali was the heavyweight champion when they met for the first time in 1971. Frazier was the champion.

“It’s the best I ever saw, no question,” he said. “It was like watching two middleweights who had nothing to lose. Frazier hit Ali so hard with a left hook in one of the middle rounds, Ali’s head looked like it was on a swivel.

“I’m sure I never saw a fight where two guys took as much punishment as those two did that day. After that fight, as fighters, neither one was ever worth a damn.”


The fight, which will be re-run on Channel 4 at 2 p.m. today, was the final matchup of Ali and Frazier, two markedly different human beings and fighters, placed in the same era. They belonged to each other, as did Schmeling and Louis, Zale and Graziano and Robinson and Basilio.

Their three fights were all memorable. But the finale, held at 11 a.m. on Oct. 1, 1975, outdoors in a Manila stadium, will be treasured by boxing buffs for generations. In their first meeting, in 1971, Frazier took Ali’s championship in a 15-round decision at Madison Square Garden.

They didn’t meet again until 1974, when neither was champion. Frazier had lost his crown to 25-year-old George Foreman the previous year. Ali beat Frazier on a 12-round decision in New York, setting up a rubber match.

A big year for Ali, 1974. After beating Frazier, he went to Zaire eight months later and, in an upset, knocked out Foreman to regain his title.

Carlos Padilla was a 41-year-old referee in those days. He was considered a competent referee, one of the best in the Philippines, but he’d never worked a world title fight before.

“In the Philippines, all the certified referees put on their referee uniforms and went to the fight together,” he said the other day. “You are never told you are going to work until one hour before the bout. And that’s how it was--the head of the boxing commission tapped me on the shoulder an hour before Ali-Frazier and said, ‘It’s you, Carlos.’ ”

Fifteen years later, Padilla is still on the world’s boxing stage. He has refereed 74 world title fights.

“I’d worked Philippines and Asian championship fights, but never a world title fight,” he said. “It’s also interesting to a lot of people that before that day, I’d never worked a weight class higher than lightweight. In fact, most of the fights I did in the Philippines were flyweight bouts.”

Padilla found Ali hard to handle, but Frazier was cooperative.

“Ali had a way of using his forearm on the backs of his opponents’ necks, and holding them down,” he said. “The boxing commissioner told me that before the fight and told me to warn him if he did it. He did it, and I warned him. They told me afterward, Ali had never been warned for it before.

“Frazier fought cleanly all the way. He never held or hit on the break or anything like that. I don’t remember cautioning him for anything.”

Two years after the Thrilla in Manila, Padilla moved to Las Vegas, where his mother had lived for years. He became a U.S. citizen in 1984 and is considered one of Nevada’s top referees. He has also been a bartender and a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas. He’s an actor in the Philippines and sometimes goes back to the old country when a film role is offered.

Fifteen years later, the Thrilla in Manila lives brightly in his memory and not only because it was his first championship.

“Yeah, I would have to say it was maybe the most exciting, the most intense fight I ever worked,” he said.

Boxing Notes

Former professional middleweight Johnny Smith will promote his first boxing card May 23 at the Airport Hyatt Hotel. It will match middleweights Larry Musgrove and Roberto Rosiles in a 10-round main event. . . . Huntington Beach lifeguard John Armijo will make his main-event debut at the Irvine Marriott on May 24 against 1980 U.S. Olympian Alex Ramos.

Navy bantamweight Sean Fletcher of San Diego was named to a six-boxer U.S. amateur team that will fight at the Papeete Celebration tournament in Tahiti May 22-28. . . . Evander Holyfield will have a tuneup while he waits for the Buster Douglas-Don King-Steve Wynn legal problems to be resolved. He’ll fight New York journeyman heavyweight Seamus McDonagh on June 1 on Showtime.

Sunday, NBC-TV will showcase one of boxing’s hot prospects, super-bantamweight Jamal Hinton, who is 13-0 with 11 knockouts. Hinton was the sensation of the amateurs in 1988 until a shoulder injury knocked him out of the Olympic trials. He will fight Alberto Martinez. In the second half of the super-bantamweight doubleheader, starting at 10:30 a.m. on Channel 4, Jesse Benavides will meet Kelvin Seabrooks. On its June 10 boxing program, NBC will show the Paul Gonzales-Orlando Canizales International Boxing Federation bantamweight championship match from El Paso. And on that undercard, 1988 Olympian Todd Foster will make his network debut.

The smallest man on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, Michael Carbajal, who won a silver medal as a light-flyweight, will become the first from that team to fight for a world title when he faces Thailand’s IBF junior-flyweight champion, Muangshai Kittikasem, on Sept. 2, also on NBC. . . . Now that Jerry Quarry has been granted a boxing license in Wisconsin--he has a fight in Lake Geneva June 2, according to Guy Ditmars, his trainer--and is training for another comeback, wouldn’t this be a perfect time for Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali to come back, too? Since Wisconsin apparently will license anyone, why stop with Quarry? Whatever became of Leon Spinks?