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

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Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier + The Fight of the Century: Ali vs. Frazier March 8, 1971
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (February 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060954809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060954802
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Muhammad Ali once admitted to former Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram that he and Joe Frazier went to Manila for the third of their three epic fights "as champions and we came back as old men." Boxing is a particularly unforgiving sport for old men, especially those--as Kram tells us in Ghosts of Manila, his thoroughly riveting account of one of the Sweet Science's greatest rivalries--"with too much pride, heart, and unexamined confidence for their own well-being." Which defines Ali and Frazier's essential characters in a nutshell.

Kram begins his saga in the present, looking at the different kinds of isolation that currently surround each man's life, then dances back and forth through time to spar with just who these warriors have been and how they came to be the icons, for better or worse, they became. Ghosts of Manila is more than a twin biography, though; it is an often haunting meditation on how much we project onto our athletes, and how destructive the projections can be. As much as any punishment sustained in three of the most brutal title fights in heavyweight history, the baggage--personal and societal--that Ali and Frazier carried into and out of the ring changed them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Did Ali earn all the love? Did Frazier deserve all the scorn? To answer the questions, Kram bravely goes toe to toe with Ali worship and Ali's myth. His daring rewards us with knockout profiles of two legends more complex and real than mere iconography might allow. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Kram, who covered boxing for Sports Illustrated for more than a decade, tells the story of Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali's epic 1975 Manila fight, and the bitter and complex rivalry between the two men that preceded it. He begins his story when the men, both black Southerners, are isolated and in retirement. Ali calls Manila "the greatest fight" of his life, while Frazier remains obsessively consumed by his hatred of Ali. Kram is intent on undoing the media "romance history" of Ali as civil rights hero; "hagiographers," he writes, "never tire of trying to persuade us that he ranked second only to Martin Luther King, but... Ali was not a social force." Frazier and Ali began as friends, but professional competition and divergent views on race turned theirs into a rivalry that had a lasting effect on professional sport and perhaps changed the meaning of race, especially for African-Americans, in postwar America. Kram explores the fighters' serial wives and mixed-up families, as well as their shifting, hunting packs of managers and assistants Ali's Black Muslim handlers in particular ("They were into profit and running things like Papa Doc was running Haiti"). Describing the powerful title event, Kram's prose is heavy with metaphors, not all of them helpful ("Ali's legs searched for the floor like one of Baudelaire's lost balloons"), and some of the narrative reads like his earlier accounts of the fights pasted together. Still, overall this is a daring, intelligent and well-observed piece of sportswriting. (May)Forecast: Boxing is reclaiming its popularity. Author appearances in New York and Washington, D.C., along with a 50-city radio campaign, should help this fine book attract attention.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Mr. Kram is fair to all parties.
Valid points yes but not worth spending a good part of your time writing a book about.
Andrew Platek
This book is one of the greatest boxing books ever written.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By D. Roth on August 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By NDBx on January 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
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!!!!
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By "king_jiggy" on May 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By redhawk on March 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
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.Read more ›
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jazz It Up Baby on October 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
Kram, a longtime writer for Sports Illustrated, is interested primarily in two subjects. One is boxing (about which he waxes nearly lyrical) and the other is Muhammad Ali (about whom he is decidedly skeptical, condemning his "brainless exhibitionism," calling him a "religious fake," and comparing him as a positive social force to Frank Sinatra ). But in his mostly first-hand description of the growing animosity between the two heavyweight champs, Ali and Frazier, he by-the-by reveals important information about the Nation of Islam (NoI), especially in the 1960s.

We learn that the organization offered the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson a bribe to convert. The NoI saw Ali as a "useful idiot with a name" and exploited him as an ongoing theme. Turns out that Ali's most famous political utterance, "I ain't got nothing against them Vietcong," was not his own but was slyly dropped into his presentation by a NoI watchdog to burnish the NoI's revolutionary credentials. His NoI handlers fleeced Ali financially. When Malcolm X was expelled from the NoI, Ali laughed and scorned him. At one point, Ali feared being killed by NoI assassins, much as Malcolm X had been - and the night of the latter's murder, a fire was set in Ali's apartment.

Another theme has to do with the attractions of the NoI for a man like Ali. Those were two-fold. The NoI gave expression to his resentments and suspicions of whites, swathing them with a religious and even theological justification that deepened and solidified them. Less known, NoI customs neatly justified Ali's desire to have his way with women. As he understood the NoI doctrines, they posited the "inferiority" of women, their obedience to men, their extreme modesty outside the house, and their acceptance of polygamy. All this ideally matched Ali's interests.
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