October 1, 1975- a day when the boxing world stood witness to one of the greatest fights in history. Thrilla in Manilla, the third and final boxing match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, of which Ali famously remarked “It will be a killa... and a chilla”, is back in a new way. The trunks worn by Ali in that legendary match have sold for a record breaking $100,000 at Robert Edwards auctions. Needless to point out, if Thrilla in Manilla can be universally regarded as one the greatest boxing battles in history, Ali’s trunks, which he wore that day, are no less awe inspiring either.
In terms of design, the trunks have little offer. Made with satin, the pair features waistband trimmings. That the charm and aura of the trunks lie not in its design but the historical legacy associated with it becomes all the more evident as we run a quick eye over the piece. An Everlast label on the waistband proudly announces the name of the wearer. Further down, black marker notations peek from each leg. While the right leg flaunts a "Ali-Frazier Fight/Thrilla in Manilla" remark, a steeped-in-history "Pres. F. Marcos/Manilla, Philippines/Oct 1, 1975" writing appears on the right. There is also an autograph of Muhammad Ali, scrawled in black ink, beaming from the left corner. A letter of provenance by Craig Hamilton, the celebrated boxing expert, accompanies the trunks. In the letter Hamilton has confirmed the autograph of Ali on the trunk as authentic. The piece, according to Hamilton, had reportedly been acquired by Drew “Bandini” Brown, Ali’s long time assistant trainer. Brown who, in addition to the trunks, had access to several of Ali’s priceless memorabilia stored them in a storage locker near his California home. The collection was sold off following Brown’s death in 1987, only to re-appear years later at a 2002 Sotheby’s auction. The trunks and other items from Brown’s personal locker went to a certain Andrew Heller, Hamilton further noted.
While the latest news about Muhammad Ali’s trunks going under the hammer and fetching big bucks has given his fans a reason to cheer, it hardly comes like a surprise. Ali’s famed trunks have made history on more occasions than one. In 2011, the fight trunks worn by Ali for the Fight of the Century-the legendary bout between Frazier and him-fetched $173,102 at auctions. The trunks have been registered by auctioneer SCP auctions as the “most important item of boxing memorabilia ever to be offered at auction”.
Earlier this month a pair of trunks autographed by the great Boxer himself went to online auctions. The white piece with a black waistband featuring the “Everlast” logo is priced at $15,000.
Coming back to the thrilla in Manilla trunks, the pieces have all been video matched, claim the Robert Edwards auction site. While the trunks, dating back to the 70s, are in a relatively good shape, there is slight discoloration near the waistband. However, given their historicity, minor color spills on the trunks would hardly matter. Thrilla in Manilla of which the trunks are an integral part is, after all, a match that inspired an entire mall in Philippines and has been described by Ali as one where death came closest to him.