October 1, 2015 7:30 AM EDT

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 ‘Thrilla 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:

Read more about the fight from 1975, here in the TIME Vault: Battle for Supremacy in Manila

 

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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