An Official Selection at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Thrilla in Manila chronicles one of the bitterest sports face-offs ever, recounting a tale of personal betrayal that was stoked by the racial politics of 1970s America. Featuring archival footage and exclusive interviews with boxing insiders, including Ferdie Pacheco, Butch Lewis and Dave Wolf, as well as Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines, the documentary tells the story of two great fighters forever linked by three epic bouts, and looks at their final fight, considered the most brutal, from Frazier's perspective for the first time.
Directed by John Dower ("Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of The New York Cosmos"), Thrilla in Manila deftly tracks an extraordinary personal battle between two friends, and captures the poignant moment in the socio-cultural history of the country when they became American sports icons and legends. While Ali was a symbol of the civil rights struggle and anti-Vietnam War movement, Frazier was cast as the symbol of the pro-war, conservative segment of American society, some would say unfairly.
In 1967, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown after refusing induction into the armed forces. The film reveals how Frazier subsequently befriended Ali and supported the renewal of his boxing license and status, showing the intense feelings of betrayal he felt after Ali returned to the ring in 1970 and subjected him to race-baiting attacks.
Thrilla in Manila is part of a compelling night of boxing programming that also includes the return of the Emmy(r)-winning HBO Sports reality franchise "24/7" and an intriguing battle between two of the sport's most formidable competitors. Debuting at 9:30 p.m. (ET/PT), "Pacquiao/Hatton 24/7" sets the stage for the May 2 pay-per-view junior welterweight showdown between reigning pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines and Ricky Hatton, his engaging British opponent. The 12-round "World Championship Boxing" middleweight bout between Winky Wright and Paul Williams will be seen live from Las Vegas at 10:00 p.m. (ET)/7:00 p.m. (PT).
HBO Documentary Films and HBO Sports Present A Darlow Smithson Production; narrated by Liev Schreiber; produced and directed by John Dower; executive producers, John Smithson and Elinor Day; executive producer for British Channel 4, Andrew Mackenzie; director of photography, Stephen Standen; editors, Nicholas Packer and Kate Spankie.