It was 40 years ago—on Oct. 1, 1975—that Muhammad Ali took on Joe Frazier in a boxing match that would go down as one of the sport's greatest.
As should surprise nobody familiar with his talent for wordplay, the so-called Thrilla in Manila was named by Ali himself, and functioned as giant publicity excursion for the veteran slugger.
"Ostensibly, Ali had come to defend his title against Frazier in an extravaganza he touts as the 'T hrilla in Manila,'" TIME noted ahead of the fight. " In fact, the expedition resembles nothing so much as a royal tour. Ali has become one of the most readily recognized individuals in the world."
But Ali's celebrity didn't mean the "Thrilla" would prove to be an easy match for the defending champ, as the fight report made clear:
The bell that ended the 14th round was the last one to ring. Muhammad Ali lay on the canvas in exhaustion. Joe Frazier stood in a fog in his corner. The fight was over, stopped by Frazier's manager, Eddie Futch, because Smokin' Joe could no longer see the punches pounding into his nearly closed eyes. Ali had successfully defended his world heavyweight boxing title against Frazier, but the long slugging battle had been as tough as any he had known.
While his bruises were still achingly fresh, the champ threatened once more to retire from the ring; a groggy Frazier, clutching his pride, refused to quit. Whether either man will live up to those first postfight statements remains to be seen, but there was no doubt that the fight itself was the best each boxer had fought since that epic brawl in 1971 when then Champion Frazier won a 15-round decision against Ali, inflicting a rare knockdown in the process.
Read more about the fight from 1975, here in the TIME Vault: Battle for Supremacy in Manila