Sport on TV: Ali gets under Frazier's skin, and Tull fights for recognition

Smokin' Joe is still fuming. As the US civil rights movement reaches its zenith, 'Thriller in Manila' (More 4, Tuesday) laid bare a festering hatred between two of the country's greatest black heroes, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.

Bizarrely, it arose over the issue of race. In 1974, Ali called Frazier an "Uncle Tom" on Michael Parkinson's chatshow, implying that he was working for the white man. Ali had embraced the Nation of Islam black segregationists and deplored the fact Frazier was supported by a group of white Philadelphia businessmen.

Yet it was Frazier who had petitioned to have Ali's boxing licence restored after he refused to go to Vietnam. As Ali's "fight doctor", Ferdie Pacheco, said, the Nation's exploitation of their freedom fighter was "the ultimate manipulation of anyone I've ever seen". Who was really selling out? Ali spoke at a Ku Klux Klan rally when the Nation were considering forming a pact. Frazier had worked for the white man – in the fields of South Carolina from the age of seven. Even when he returned as world champion, Frazier was turned away when he tried to cash a cheque in a local bank.

In the Philippines in 1975, Ali kept referring to Frazier as a "gorilla". He later said he was only trying to publicise the fight, but away from the limelight he stood below Frazier's hotel balcony brandishing a gun. It showed just how unbalanced the great ring dancer had become.

It was ironic that the Manila fight should end with Frazier unable to see: that two such leading lights failed to see eye to eye; that such an intelligent sportsman as Ali was myopic about the psychological damage he caused. Frazier glories in being the man who caused Ali's physical decline. His answer machine bears the message: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, I done the job, he knows, look and see". Now that really is unforgivable.

The pioneering black footballer Walter Tull was subjected to such intense racial abuse when Spurs visited Bristol in 1909 that the London club offloaded him. 'Walter Tull: Forgotten Hero' (BBC4, Thursday) told his remarkable story. In 1914, he signed up for the Footballers' Battalion, created in a bid to persuade fans to enlist. So distinguished was his service that he became the first black officer in the British Army, even though it was against regulations. The next black officer didn't come along for another 23 years.

Tull never made it home, and his story was lost in the mud of the Somme. Now, 25 per cent of Premier League players are black, but the years of abuse they had to endure might have been mitigated by memories of the man who, according to an appalled reporter at that Bristol match, was "a model for all white men who play football".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

Guru Careers: Print Project Manager

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Print Project Manager is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk