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

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  400 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
When Muhammad Ali met Joe Frazier in Manila for their third fight, their rivalry had spun out of control. The Ali-Frazier matchup had become a madness, inflamed by the media and the politics of race. When the "Thrilla in Manila" was over, one man was left with a ruin of a life; the other was battered to his soul.

Mark Kram covered that fight for Sports Illustrated in an awa
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 19th 2002 by Harper Perennial (first published May 22nd 2001)
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John Allen
Mar 07, 2012 John Allen rated it did not like it
After reading this compulsively readable book (compulsively readable in the same way that eating a pint of ice cream is compulsive, reprimanding oneself afterward for submitting to the lowly instinct), I felt tremendous pity for Mark Kram. I don't think he was so much concerned with portraying the "fateful blood feud between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier" as making an art out of agony, resentments and utter dirt. I would have been more satisfied if Kram had ended each chapter with the following l ...more
Jan 26, 2010 Cwn_annwn_13 rated it liked it
If the authors goal with this book was to show Ali had a darkside, was an intellectually shallow person, was led around by the nose by the Black Muslims, that he was a lousy Father and Husband, or that in spite of Ali belonging to a brainwashing black nationalist cult, the truth is Joe Fraizer, who Ali labeled as an "Uncle Tom" was "blacker" than Ali could have ever hoped to have been, then the guy that wrote Ghosts of Manila succeeded. He also makes a good point that Ali, while playing the rol ...more
Jan 09, 2008 Tung rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
One of the most-heralded sports nonfiction books around, Kram’s book details the feud between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier leading up to (and after) their third fight, the “Thrilla in Manila”, one of the greatest bouts of all time. Kram does an incredible job of portraying the psyches and personalities of both fighters, and the root and exacerbation of the feud between them. Overall, however, I don’t feel the book completely lived up to the hype I had gotten prior to choosing the book. For one t ...more
Dec 09, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing
This was a really outstanding book about Ali-Frazier. More than just a recap of the fights, it gives a history of both men, a history of their animosity, and tracks the forces that drove the feud. The Nation of Islam did a lot of the pushing for Ali, and it was interesting to read Kram's (who has first hand accounts of much of what's in the book) take on the man. For someone who's basically been deified at this point, a lot of the glow comes off Ali here. And I'm a lot more interested in Joe Fra ...more
Feb 09, 2009 Yofish rated it really liked it
Written by a Sports Illustrated writer, centered around the three Ali-Frazier fights. Basically history, but from this writer's point of view. He did not have kind opinions of many (Cosell, Bryant Gumbel, the black Muslims come off pretty bad), but liked both the boxers---and boxing in general. A lot of rumor (Ali getting a blow job from Gladys Knight in the locker room after the first fight?) and opinion. But reads very well. May have inspired me to try to watch the fights somehow.

4.5 really
Kym Andrew Robinson
Jan 26, 2014 Kym Andrew Robinson rated it liked it
Shelves: boxing
A book about one of the more famous bouts in the history of boxing, the third showdown between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. The pages attempt to tell the story of the pre fight build up and the personal back story to this epic battle between the sports all time best big men.

Having said that one can not help to feel that the authour has a dislike for Ali and attempts to deride many of his accomplishments prior to this fight. Furthermore he seems to seek a narrative of good guy and bad guy betwee
Michael Schoeffel
Jul 24, 2016 Michael Schoeffel rated it liked it
There's certainly no hero worshiping here, and that alone makes "Ghosts" a valuable book. Kram paints a somewhat grim portrait of Ali the Man, and in doing so presents an alternate view of a figure that is internationally admired. That view, in essence, is that Ali, while a phenomenal fighter, was an intellectually shallow man-child without an original thought in his head; one of the greatest athletes of all time, yes, but of little consequence politically and socially.

At core, this book is Kra
Feb 10, 2014 Ben rated it liked it
History will remember Muhammad Ali for his charisma, confidence, and courage in battling Parkinson's Disease. According to this book, he's also kind of a lousy person and a bad judge of character. In particular, he destroyed Joe Frazier's reputation and self-confidence through an incessant campaign of ruthless racial slurs and depredations. Fine, I suppose we should know the whole story before we sanctify him in the pop culture pantheon. But my main takeaway from this book was that boxing is a h ...more
Aug 03, 2016 Mylesgorton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this after hearing Steve Bunce speaking about Ali following his death and saying that Ghosts of Manilla was the best/most honest book he had read on Ali. The book does not disappoint! A very well written no-holds-barred dissection of the relationship between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. This book also explores the people who controlled/influenced the fighters and, if it's all to be believed there was much manipulation.

The impression I got was that while Ali was clearly in the thrall of t
Holly Cline
Nov 16, 2013 Holly Cline rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, history
3.5 stars. Ghosts of Manila is a great look at the relationship between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali over the course of their careers, culminating with the Thrilla in Manila. It's an intense yet ultimately sad portrait of these two men and the sport that defined them. If you're an Ali worshipper, this book will be a bit jarring for you to read. His cruelty towards Joe can be alarming to read about, and the effects of Ali's emotional bullying clearly affected Joe for the rest of his life. I think ...more
Nov 10, 2013 Colin rated it liked it
An analysis of Joe Frazier & Muhammad Ali final fight in Manila. The author goes into much insight into both fighter's personal lives before and after the fight. This insight borderlines on gossip and leaves the reader feeling slightly dirty. Both fighters are viewed not as heroes but as human with all the human shortcomings that come with fame and success. Some new territory here, but not much.

For me, the one major flaw is the author doesn't focus on the fight. Instead the author only pens
Kevin Bowser
Sep 27, 2015 Kevin Bowser rated it really liked it
This was a very enlightening book. Like so many, I grew up in the Muhammad Ali era of boxing. Although, ashamed to admit it at the time, I was a huge fan and enjoyed his antics and the occassional bout shown on ABC's Wide World of Sports.

But, Mark Kram's picture of Ali and Frazier are markedly different that what I grew up seeing portrayed on TV. So, from that perspective I found Kram's insights from so many years of covering Ali and the boxing world to be very interesting. I am not sure his pi
Jun 26, 2012 Thomas rated it liked it
I read this book after watching the Manila fight on ESPN Classic. Don't be fooled (as I was initially) by the book's size; while not the tome I was expecting, it had more than enough information and definitely held my attention.

On the negative side I did find the editing to be subpar in some places which at times made the text difficult to discern. This is especially annoying because much of the book is written in a Sports Illustrated coulmn style. But overall the pace was quick and fluid.

I was
Jan 17, 2013 Jacob rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book delves into the incredible dislike Ali and Frazier still had for one another long after their fights. The hatred went much beyond the usual bluster fighters show at press conferences and was really deeply ingrained in cultural and personal ways. While the author had great access to the fighters and put a compelling story together, I was left wondering if he was the right person for the book.

Kram clearly disliked Ali, and while in comparison Frazier comes off like a champ, I don't thin
Feb 15, 2008 Steven rated it really liked it
Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali fought three epic battles in the ring, the most remembered of which was the “Thrilla in Manila.” If you have ever seen replays of the “Thrilla in Manila,” you know a little bit of how violent and viscous the fight was and how much it took out of both fighters both physically and mentally.

This book did an excellent job of chronicling the enmity between the two and how the fight affect them both in life and afterwards. Although this was before my time, I never really f
Bernie Mcnelis
Jul 01, 2016 Bernie Mcnelis rated it it was ok
Mark Kram is a very poor writer. Bad grammatically, lots of non sequitur references, use of obscure words just for the sake of using them. I think he sees himself as Hemingway but he's not even close.

And there's lots of "eye witness" quotes - was he really there for all of them?

I'm fascinated by this topic -otherwise I would have bailed on the book.
Jan 25, 2016 Pablo rated it really liked it
Shelves: sport
A clear, concise and highly opinionated look at Ali and Frazier. Well written and digs deep into the skeletons in the closet. For those who prefer their heroes left as shining, plastic stick figures, then this is probably the wrong book. For those Ali fans who complain of Kram's decidedly negative views about certain aspects of his behavior and life, I would suspect that they belong to the same group that refused to see O.J. for what he was until long past the time when it was obviously clear. S ...more
Jun 22, 2008 Bax rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: boxing, biography
Arguable the best boxing book out there, a relentless dissection of the best heavyweight trilogy of all time.

Turns a fair but pitiless gaze on the actions of both men inside and outside the ring, giving us the best available x-ray of what makes a transcendently great fighter.

A majority of my boxing friends seem to think it's unfair to Ali, but I disagree.
Ali's mean streak was a necessary component to his greatness, and this is one of the few books on the Greatest that inspects his impulse toward
Jun 29, 2013 Cbackson rated it it was amazing
Immediately after finishing this book, I looked up the author, only to learn that he died shortly after my edition was published. That's an enormous loss. This is a searing, opinionated, beautifully written little book. Kram has the wisdom to realize that providing a play-by-play of the three Ali/Frazier fights is secondary (or even tertiary) to the story of their knotted, bitter hatred for one another. Avoiding the treacle sentimentality that often pollutes sportswriting, Kram gives us a venal ...more
Nick Jordan
Jul 07, 2015 Nick Jordan rated it really liked it
One of the best, most insightful, books about boxing every written. A brilliant deconstruction of the Ali myth.
Aug 30, 2008 James rated it really liked it
Kram followed Ali around during his hayday as a boxer, and uses this access to chronicle the collision and fallout of the Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fights.

This book shines a powerful light on both boxers, and illuminates frequently unflattering aspects of their demeanor. In particular Ali comes off poorly in this book, as Kram through his years of research deconstructs the myth who is merely a man.

A good read for anyone who follows sports or culture, this book is not restricted to boxing fan
Gary Geiger
Mar 19, 2016 Gary Geiger rated it liked it
Shelves: boxing
Kram has a poetic writing style, but after reading this, I don't feel I know Ali better. What I did get out of it was a view that wasn't hagiographic. In a sense,this book was the photographic negative of Charles Leershen's Ty Cobb bio A Terrible Beauty.
Gary Rivlin
Jan 24, 2014 Gary Rivlin rated it it was amazing
a gem of a book by a former Sports Illustrated reporter who covered the Ali-Frazier fights. A lyrical writer who shows us a darker side to Ali.
Dec 04, 2007 Joshua rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2007
Interesting look into the lives of Ali/Frazier and their three bouts. The pair did not like each other and their battles in the ring sort of took so much out of them they were never the same. This paints a negative portrait of Ali. Enough so I found myself rooting for Frazier in the fights even though I knew what was going to happen. Boxing, like baseball, has some incredible, literate and well done writing done on it and this is another well written, interesting book on the field.
Tariq Engineer
May 02, 2016 Tariq Engineer rated it it was amazing
Kram is one of the better writers on boxing but in this book, appears determined to tear Muhammad Ali down (as a human being, not a boxer), which is why the best parts of the book are about Joe Frazier, about whom much less is known because he lived his life in Ali's shadow. Ghosts of Manila is worth a read for that reason alone.
Morris Graham
Oct 10, 2013 Morris Graham rated it it was amazing
This was a great read! The author worked hard to dig deep into the lives of both fighters, and their rivalry. At the end of the "Thrilla from Manila", both men were forever changed, Frasier broken and Ali never really the same.

This was one of the key books I read to give life to my fight scene of my book.

Dec 14, 2008 Nathan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: franklin-library
What qualifies Kram to tell this well-known story turns out to be only the fact that he witnessed its central event. Unfortunately, he wouldn't qualify based on his writing. The actual fight is a soft whimper lost amid the screeching violins of Kram's overly-sentimental prose.
Jul 08, 2012 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: boxing
The author clearly has some strong feelings about Ali, but it is refreshing to read something that doesn't gloss over his faults. Some of the fight description left me breathless. Frazier comes across as a hugely sympathetic and tragic character.
Apr 27, 2008 Brett rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It really amazed me to see how much Ali and frazier truely hate each other, even to this day. They really both credit themselves with making the other guy's career. And Frazier definitely doesn't get as much credit as he probably should.
Aug 03, 2012 Websterdavid3 rated it it was ok
some very interesting stuff....

but a bit full of guesses. and i regret that Kram didn't position himself very much-- given
the incredible racial and political tensions of those times.

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