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Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier [Paperback]

Jr. Kram Mark
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2002
When Muhammad Ali met Joe Frazier in Manila for the third, bloody act of their heroic trilogy of fights, the rivalry had spun out of control. More than a clash of personalities of fighting styles, the Ali/Frazier match-up had become a kind of madness, enflamed by the media and the politics of race. When "The Thrilla in Manila" was over, the hype no longer mattered: one man was left with a ruin of a life; the other was battered to his soul. Mark Kram's remarkable book begins with the boxers themselves -- who they are and who they were. Weaving together present and past, Kram explodes the hagiography surrounding both fighters -- particularly Ali -- and presents readers with the rarest of literary achievements: a psychologically riveting study of two heroes, many myths, and the reality behind it all.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060954809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060954802
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.5 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,887,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Legacies of Great Fighters 23 July 2004
Although Ghosts of Manilla is ostensibly focused on the 1975 "Thrilla in Manila" in which Muhammad Ali outlasted Joe Frazier in a brutal slugfest, the book really digs into who these men were before boxing, how boxing affected them, and how we should look upon them. Those looking for lots of boxing excitement will probably be disappointed. The fight descriptions are the least well done parts of the book. Those who are looking into what heavyweight boxing is really like will get more than they bargained for. The personal record on Muhammad Ali is dramatically revised downward, and you will again be reminded that boxing is a brutal sport. After the fight, "one left with the ruin of a life, the other battered to his soul." When offered a chance to watch the fight on videotape, Muhammad Ali declined. "I don't wanna look at hell again." The book's stylistic weakness is that the author is very opinionated, and often borders on sarcasm in conveying his views.
Mr. Kram has been a boxing reporter for many years, and has had close access to most of the people he writes about in the book. As a result, he can portray his own discussions and observations from a first-hand perspective. He seems to have decided to tell it like it is on events that many reporters probably observe but do not comment about in public. On the other hand, he does this telling as tastefully as possible while not pulling his punches.
The book is much more about Mr. Ali than about Mr. Frazier. The key themes that are new about Mr. Ali are that he was controlled by the Black Muslims through fear of being killed, had an uncontrolled sexual appetite, did severe damage to the personalities of the black boxers he verbally humiliated, treated one of his daughters poorly, and was an unprincipled self-promoter.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
In describing Ali's third and most brutal war with Joe Frazier, Kram twists and distorts plain facts and truths to suit his own agenda,which appears to concern itself with exacting some kind of revenge on Ali for an imaginary crime or slight Kram never explains.
Ali is portrayed as a cesspit of human morality, a womaniser ( already well-documented), a figure of no social or cultural impact and, most offensively of all, a coward who refused to fight for his country.
Even amidst the aclaim surrounding his 60th birthday, no sane person would argue that Ali is a saint, but he was a tremendously exciting and enthralling sporting figure who transcended boxing and became an icon and a hero to millions around the world.
Did he achieve this by being a coward, as Kram asserts? Did cowardice see him through his battles with Sonny Liston, George Foreman and, most of all, the American media and Government? I think not. Ali had the heart of a lion, and it must have taken unimaginable courage to surrender his World Championship over his very genuine religious beliefs.
The history Ali ultimately made tells us differently now, but in 1967, nobody expected to see him box again, far less regain his title on that epic night in Zaire.
It seems Kram has elected to interpret Ali's story - and history - very differently from anybody else, as if he is nursing a personal grievance...
Go and buy Thomas Hauser's comprehensive biography, or better still, David Remnick's magnificent King Of The World & Hugh Mcilvanny's On Boxing for writing that does Ali justice. To millions, he'll always be The Greatest.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ......Takes the Frazier-Ali Wars to a new level of thought 4 Aug 2001
By D. Roth - Published on
Simply, this book needed to be written. It details the most significant rivalry in boxing history and challenges the legacy and legend of Ali. There is some choppiness to this book early on in terms of writing style but true boxing fans will not be able to put it down. I have this feeling that Mark Kram was as dismayed as I was when Ali was named the greatest Sportsman of our time by Sports Illustrated given his shabby treatment and cruel theatrics towards one of the most magnificent warriors of our time (Frazier). How can you blame Frazier for the way he feels? Finally, a sportswriter of great knowledge and literary capability has exhibited enough courage to challenge myth. Philly: Tear that silly statue down of Stallone and replace it with one for Smokin' Joe.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kram doesn't like Ali, but he doesn't really get it 30 May 2004
By world class wreckin cru - Published on
It seems that Kram's primary goal in Ghosts of Manila is to deconstruct Ali's mythical legacy. He claims to be one of the few journalists who saw and still see Ali as he truly was - a not-so-bright, often mean-spirited, self-promoting man and easily manipulated tool of the Nation of Islam. He rejects the idea of Ali being a real symbol of the civil rights movement, and instead, he portrays him as a propaganda machine for the Nation of Islam. The author also takes serious issue with Ali's treatment of Frazier who he portrays as a fine human being with a few minor flaws whose life was permanently changed for the worse as a result of his bouts with Ali.
Now, there are definitely truths to Kram's viewpoints. Sure, Ali was not really the civil rights hero he's often portrayed to be. He was also an incorrible womanizer, and he didn't treat a lot of people around him very well. Unfortunately, Kram goes overboard in his attempt to completely destroy the Ali myth. For instance, maybe Ali wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was smart enough to use psychological warfare against both Frazier and Foreman inside and outside of the ring. Neither Frazier nor Foreman could fight back in like manner suffering devastating losses as a result. Also, Kram forgets a big reason why Ali was so loved. He was so damn charismatic. One needs only to view the Oscar-winning documentary "When We Were Kings" to appreciate Ali's appeal.
The story of Frazier's life is indeed sad, and he is still not appreciated as the great fighter that he was. Unfortunately, no matter how much Kram wants to build up Frazier's legend while destroying Ali's myth, the fact remains that Ali's place in sports history is secure because of his arrival at the right time in boxing and politics and not to mention, he was a hell of a fighter.
I did learn a great deal from this book, and I do agree with the author on many points about Ali's myth. I just think that he went for the overkill and failed.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding - an honest look 11 Mar 2006
By redhawk - Published on
I loved this book. I'm a huge boxing fan and love boxing history. Kram's book (may he RIP) is an honest look at two men he knew well and admired in their own ways. The story is centered around the relationship of Frazier and Ali and their three fights. It discusses the significance of these fights on each man mentally and phisically as well as the larger cultural implications in a turbulent time. Knowing both men well as they were developing fighters, and after their careers, gave him access of tremendous value to the story. One of the great things about this book is the prose. Sometimes his description of the fighters, their styles, the events can give you goose bumps. You can FEEL the snap of ALi's jab. Sense Ali's desperation as Frazier "keeps coming forward, like an angry wave", or "a dark cloud blotting out the sun". One of the negative things about the book, that almost gave it 4 stars is....the prose. Sometimes it can be clunky and hard to follow. There are many sentence fragments and sometimes too many big, obscure words per sentence. But overall, the story is SO good, and the writting too awesome at times, to give it less than a 5. It is difficult for the Ali worshipers to read some of the negative things he wrote about him, but I think it is inaccurate to say he wrote them because he disliked him, or he wanted to tear him down out of spite. He reveals his fondness for Ali, as a person, many times in the book. He gives the reasons why he liked him and even tells of his generous side (giving $ to Rocky's widow). He simply tells of the other side of Ali, the bad side, that all humans have, but the Ali worhsipers fail to recognize. Unfortunately, this side is corrabertaed by other boxing historians, just not mainstream US. He gives the same treatment to Frazier. Revealing both his positive and negative traits as a person. I will agree that the book is somewhat sympathetic to Frazier, as it should be. Frazier has been forgotten, and sometimes villified, because of Ali. Kram simply intends to tell the truth, both good and bad, about both men, for the sake of ACCURATE history. Ali and Frazier are like most men. Both good and bad, and their stories are compelling.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling...Fascinating...An outstanding read... 24 Jan 2004
By NDBx - Published on
This simply one of the best sports books I've ever read. Covering one of the most fascinating rivalries to ever command our attention, Mr. Kram sheds a great deal of light on the subject. Much has been written lately about fighters of that era and of Muhammad Ali in particular. Seldom has the subject been covered this completely.

There's no lionizing here. Mr. Kram is fair to all parties. He covers not only Frazier and Ali but the era immediately preceding them. So many details previously not known are brought to light here.

The complex relationship between the two fighters, the fire that burned between them and what started that fire which had to do with much more than simply pre-fight hype and professional rivalries.

Mr. Kram takes us through every bit of it right up to and including "The Thrilla in Manila". That doesn't mean he stops there. He follows up and brings us to the present. So much has been written about Ali and much is written here. Seldom are we given such an extensive view of Joe Frazier, who is no less compelling tha Ali in this book.

This is a jewel of a book. A keeper... This one goes up in the bookshelf in a secure place for future re-reads.

Thank you Mark Kram!!!!
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book 23 May 2001
By "king_jiggy" - Published on
I waited and waited for this book to come out, knowing that it was going to be a great read. I conquered it in one night. It's even better than I expected it to be.
The greatest thing about this book is that it doesn't lie. There are no heroes, no bad guys; it is simply the truth about the massive hatred flowing between two men and how it came to be that way. Frazier is shown for the brilliant fighter that he was, (finally), and Ali is brought down to the level he should have always been at.
The story is somewhat terrible. They started out as friends. Now Frazier is almost obsessed with his hatred of Ali, and Ali refuses to mention the competitor that made him such a spectacle.
Mark Kram writes with an intelligence that one would not expect from a boxing journalist. His references throughout the book to philosophers and writers might lose some people occasionally, (like me), the fact remains that he possesses an uncanny insight into human beings. His profiles of Ali and Frazier are awesome, and this book should go down as one of the great reports on the world of boxing.
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