FILIPINOS in the boxing-crazy nation were grieving the passing of Muhammad Ali Saturday, which brought fond memories of the 1975 epic “Thrilla in Manila” fight between Ali and Joe Frazier.
Sports commentator Ronnie Nathanielsz, who was assigned by then-dictator Ferdinand Marcos to act as government liaison to Ali for the bout, said Saturday, “We lost a hero, a peacemaker and a truly charismatic human being.”
Nathanielsz likened Ali to Filipino boxing star Manny Pacquiao, saying both were icons who were close to and inspired common folk.
Roel Velasco, who won the bronze medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, thanked Ali for helping inspire him to become a boxer, saying “it’s sad to see one of the world’s greatest boxers go.”
Two years earlier Ali visited Indonesia, where he mixed with locals and fought Rudi Lubbers at Jakarta Stadium.
Muhammad Ali saat berkunjung ke Jakarta, 1973 pic.twitter.com/zN0jsIX8z7
— akhmad sahal (@sahaL_AS) June 4, 2016
Tributes for Ali rolled in from around the world Saturday, just hours after his death.
“The Greatest” had been hospitalized for respiratory problems Thursday, and news spread that this illness was serious. Late Friday, his family confirmed that he had died.
Reaction came in from around the world of sports, entertainment and politics. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton who awarded Ali the Presidential Citizens Medal, mourned the death of the three-time heavyweight champion.
“Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of Muhammad Ali,” Clinton said in a statement. “From the day he claimed the Olympic gold medal in 1960, boxing fans across the world knew they were seeing a blend of beauty and grace, speed and strength that may never be matched again.”
A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali’s hometown.
Additional reporting from Associated Press