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‘Thrilla in Manila’ on TV

/ 12:06 AM April 23, 2018

Chot Reyes

Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali in “Thrilla in Manila” poster

Pardon coach Chot Reyes if he gets a tad excited over watching “Thrilla in Manila” on ESPN 5.

For most martial law babies, the prizefight between heavyweight champs Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier has remained a generational touchstone for megasporting events—long before the age of Twitter and Pac Man.


The sports channel recently aired “Thrilla in Manila,” as part of the morning program, “ESPN Greatest Fights” (Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 12 noon).

Blast from the past


For Reyes, “Thrilla in Manila” was a “blast from the past.”

“It was a trip down memory lane,” the TV5 president told the Inquirer.

“The prefight footage showed the Philippines in the 1970s: the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Ayala Avenue and, of course, Araneta Coliseum, where the fight was held.”

Held on Oct. 1, 1975, “Thrilla in Manila” was one of the showcase events mounted during the time of the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

Time capsule

Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee is reportedly developing a 3D movie on the fight.

It was a time capsule, in more ways than one.
“Sportscaster Ronnie Nathanielsz was there. Sonny Padilla was the referee. Anchor Joe Cantada wore bell-bottom pants! I got surprised by the high quality of the material.”


Part of the extensive ESPN library, “Thrilla in Manila” was digitally remastered for the TV airing.

3,000 hours of footage

“All of Ali’s great fights and the title bouts of Rocky Marciano and Sonny Liston are part of the ESPN archives.”

The ESPN library covers about 3,000 hours of sports footage, Reyes related. “We are scheduling the airing of these important sports events.”

Also part of the ESPN catalogue is “30 for 30” (Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 noon).

LeBron James in “Believeland”

“It presents the best sports documentaries produced by Disney and ESPN,” Reyes explained. “We recently aired ‘Believeland,’ which is about the city of Cleveland and its sports heroes: the Indians, the Browns, the Cavaliers.”

Turmoil to triumph

Andrew Billman’s “Believeland” shows how a community rallies and rises from turmoil to triumph.

“These are well-made docus by good directors,” he said.

Apart from these ESPN classics, the channel is also highlighting local events. As opening salvo, ESPN5 will kick off “Live Boxing Month” in May.

On May 13, ESPN 5 will air a series of boxing fights from morning to night.
“Wall-to-wall boxing all day,” Reyes quipped.

Part of the lineup is the world lightweight championship bout between Venezuela’s Jorge Linares and Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko, which will be beamed from the Madison Square Garden in New York (10 a.m.).


On the same day, “Survival Instinct,” a nine-bout card to be held at SM North Edsa Skydome, will be aired live (3 p.m.)—featuring top Filipino fighters AJ “Bazooka” Banal, Marvin Sonsona and Genesis Servania.

Next month, “Rocky” parts 1 to 5, starring Sylvester Stallone, will be aired, as well.

“Boxing is one of the pillars of sports that have a strong following in the country,” Reyes remarked.

Since moving to the sporting world, the network has started developing a different stable of “stars.”

Message for Derek

“Since we no longer have (actor) Derek Ramsay with us, we are now building up boxers like Mark Anthony Barriga and Jerwin Ancajas. From scripted drama, we’re focusing on the drama of sports, real-life spectacle,” said Reyes.

Speaking of Ramsay, Reyes has a simple message for their former standard bearer: “We wish him luck on his future endeavors. We hope to work together again in the future—hopefully, for the second season of ‘Amo.’ And I wish him well on his personal life…his love life!”

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