The Luxury Sales

Muhammad Ali’s Grandson Nico Ali Walsh Reacts to Thrilla in Manila Boxing Trunks


The “Thrilla in Manila,” as Ali himself coined it, on 1 October 1975, is still regarded as the greatest and most brutal boxing match of all time 50 years on. A better bout, even, than Ali’s first matchup with Joe Frazier four years prior, which was billed as “The Fight of the Century” in New York City and saw Frazier’s hand raised after he dropped Ali at the start of the 15th and final round. Better too than their controversial Madison Square Garden rematch in January 1974, which ended with Ali the victor.

The white shorts – offered at Sotheby’s 27 March-10 April as part of Sports Week – represented Ali’s defiant, razor-edged optimism, borne not of naïveté but of ultimate self-knowledge and belief. White trunks tend to tell the story of a fight: A boxer could open his opponent’s brow with a punch then redeposit the blood on their opponent’s belt line with a crushing body blow. A boxer with a broken nose may paw at their face as they suck in heaving breaths through shattered sinuses. Running blood mixes with sweat and smears when two fighters clinch and clash and lean and shove. It just gets everywhere. And white trunks show it all.

Robert Lipsyte, the legendary former New York Times reporter who spent decades covering Ali, once told me that the boxer was “the most beautiful creature on the planet.” As a Louisville prodigy, Olympic gold medalist and young champion, Ali spent much of his career dancing through his opponents, hands low and out of sight, taunting them violently while claiming their health with stealthy shots from below his belt line. But by the time he fought Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila, he was different. By then he’d been through prison and was seen as a humanitarian hero for his opposition to the Vietnam War. Upon his return to the sport, he still held his hands low but didn’t dance as much. This Ali was willing to deliver punishment – and was unyielding in his ability and willingness to take it too.

Boxing Location is Church Street Boxing Gym.

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