Golden plans to celebrate ‘Thrilla in Manila’

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines —  A grand celebration is in the works to mark the 50th anniversary of the “Thrilla In Manila” on Oct. 1 next year with MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons announcing that eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao will spearhead the commemoration at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Gibbons said he’ll reach out to descendants of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, hoping they’ll agree to join in the festivities. “We’ll find out if Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier can visit,” said Gibbons. “We’re thinking of putting together a sensational card with Ali’s grandson Nico Ali Walsh to fight. There will be a world championship bout, too.”

Gibbons said WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman is sure to back up the event. Promoters Bob Arum and Don King, who were both involved in staging the Thrilla, will be invited. “We’ll talk to Bob about coming but not sure about Don as it may be difficult for him to travel that far,” said Gibbons. Arum and King are now both 92.

Laila, 46 and Jacqui, 62, faced off in an eight-round battle of unbeaten fighters in New York in 2001 with Ali’s daughter winning by a majority decision. Laila retired in 2007 with a record of 24-0 including 21 KOs while Jacqui, now a lawyer, quit the ring in 2000 with a 13-1 mark, including nine KOs. Nico, 23, is a middleweight who turned pro in 2021 wearing his grandfather’s Everlast white shorts. His record is 10-1 with five KOs and one No-Contest. Nico’s mother is Rasheda Ali. His grandmother Khalilah, formerly Belinda Boyd, was married to Ali from 1967 to 1977 and came to Manila before the Thrilla in a huff to confront her husband who flew in earlier with his mistress Veronica Porche.

Thrilla referee Carlos (Sonny) Padilla, now 90, lives in Las Vegas and would be a central figure in the celebration if he could come. Two former world champions on the Thrilla undercard were Larry Holmes, now 74 and Rolando Navarrete, now 67. They would also be honored guests in the event. “The Thrilla was historic and could be the greatest fight ever,” said Gibbons. “Celebrating the 50th anniversary would be a major event and Sen. Manny hopes to make it happen.”

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