Araneta Center, the site of Ali’s most memorable fight ‘Thrilla in Manila’ at the Big Dome, pays tribute to the greatest of all time.
Some people are born to greatness.
Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali claimed that he is the greatest – and he proved it. During his boxing career, no one doubted his claim, and in retirement, people advocated it.
The “Thrilla in Manila” bout between Ali and Joe Frazier on October 1, 1975 (September 30, US time) remains one of the greatest boxing matches ever fought. By many accounts, it was a sweltering Wednesday when the two fighters met for the third time on the ring at the Araneta Coliseum. With over 25,000 spectators packed inside what was then the biggest enclosed coliseum in the world, the tension was palpable but nothing prepared the audience at the venue and all over the world for the fight that unfolded.
Coming from the improbable victory over George Foreman a year before to the World Heavyweight title, Ali seemed primed to handle Frazier. Still, the champ “took a beating like you wouldn’t believe...” shared Ali’s former physician and cornerman Ferdie Pacheco in the book “Muhammad Ali: In Perspective” (Collins Publishers San Francisco, 1996). The heavy pounding he took prompted him to say it was the closest to death he’d ever been. Frazier took a beating as well and was nearly blind from the swelling around his eyes. The fight ended in a TKO win by Ali when the former’s manager threw in the towel after the 14th round.
It was Ali’s ability to tap into an inner reserve of spirit that resonated most to his followers, and endeared him to his Filipino fans.
The day after the fight, the Araneta family famously hosted Ali at their ancestral home, BahaynaPuti, where, in a serendipitous moment, the Araneta Group president and CEO Jorge L. Araneta told the World Heavyweight champion he wanted to build a mall and name it after him. Ali was thrilled with the prospect and graciously agreed without asking for any royalty payment in return.
Thus, Ali Mall was born – the first shopping mall ever built in the Philippines stands as an appropriate monument to the fighter. Inaugurated on June 30, 1976 with the champ himself as the guest of honor, Ali Mall featured many firsts for a shopping mall a multiplex with two cinemas, a food court and even a skating rink -- unprecedented features that defined the shopping experience for Filipinos. Although bigger and more modern malls have since risen, Ali Mall set the blueprint for many to emulate and build upon.
Another structure indelibly linked to Ali is the Araneta Coliseum, the venue for the Thrilla in Manila superfight – arguably the most significant sporting event ever held in the Philippines. Visionary business tycoon and Araneta Center developer J. Amado Araneta foresaw a place where every Filipino, regardless of social status, can enjoy world-class entertainment. Opening in 1960, it was the largest indoor arena in Asia for a long time, setting itself apart for having the largest clear-span dome in the world at the time.
Days after Ali’s death, Ali Mall rightfully pays tribute to the man whose name it proudly bears with an art and photo exhibit billed “Forever The Greatest: Remembering Muhammad Ali.” Its highlights include several Ali-themed artworks and a bevy of collectors’ items and memorabilia from “Thrilla in Manila.” The exhibit will be launched on Friday, June 10, in time for the boxing hero’s burial in the US, and will last until the last week of June.
Born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, Muhammad Ali – the name he took after converting to Islam in 1965 – rose among the ranks of boxing greats with some of the most memorable matches against world-class fighters. Ali’s boxing exploits are well known but what sets him apart and truly made him “The Greatest” are his social conscience and advocacies.
Ali is known for his outspoken stance on social issues (his opposition against the Vietnam War, for one) and charity work supporting the likes of UNICEF, Athletes For Hope, and many others. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984, just three years after retirement, he eventually supported the Michael J. Fox Foundation (put up by the actor who also suffers from the illness) and put up the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center.
More than just a boxing icon and a hero to those who love the sport, Muhammad Ali’s greater gift to mankind is inspiration. He encouraged people to believe in themselves and accomplish things beyond what they think they are capable of. The world will forever remember his greatness.
The Araneta Center Extreme Transformation Lives OnFor 60 years the vast and dynamic community known as Araneta Center has offered a seamless blend of business, leisure, commerce, entertainment and hospitality to locals and foreigners alike. Home to some of the country’s greatest landmarks, the Center has evolved with the times, keeping pace with innovations to become a premiere destination in the heart of Metro Manila.
Fueled by over 30 billion pesos in redevelopment investment, the extreme transformation of Araneta Center continues to unfold, where old and familiar landmarks blend with modern edifices to present a bold, new face to a bustling community.
Like a grand play, each property of Araneta Center has begun to assert itself on its 35-hectare stage. And even as familiar structures like the iconic Smart Araneta Coliseum, the award-winning Gateway Mall, the ever-present Ali Mall and the mainstay Farmers Plaza each weave their own stories, new actors wait in the wings to take center-stage and share the limelight in what has become a familiar story of success and growth that is Quezon City’s premier central business district.
And headlining this new batch of players are three new names that are already making an impact on the evolving landscape of Araneta Center.
A Classic Entertainment Venue is Reborn
Immediately it established itself as the biggest cinema in the country, with only Araneta Coliseum as its competitor in size.
Fast forward to 2014 and after a major renovation that is part of the ongoing Araneta Center extreme transformation, the New Frontier’s familiar lines and character re-emerged. With 2,500 seats, the ultra-modern theater is now equipped with the latest in audio, visual and lighting technologies. Its new façade also reflects the trend seen in Araneta Center – a melding of old and new.
And it has even taken on a new name – the KIA Theatre, after a five-year naming rights agreement was signed between the Araneta Group and the Columbian Autocar Corp. As part of the deal, KIA will be setting up a 305 square-meter Kia showroom and service center, among other inclusions. Now poised to reclaim the top spot as the country premier performing arts landmark, the KIA Theatre opened in August 19 with the Musical MLQ: Ang Buhay ni Manuel L. Quezon, a modern re-telling of the life of the national hero.
Disney Live! Opens September
KIA Theatre’s doors will open this September welcome patrons to a world of wonder that only Disney can achieve. Disney Live! Mickey’s Music Festival will feature Mickey and his pals along with Disney characters from Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story.
The 90-minute production features an irresistible lineup of more than 25 Disney stars, including Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy; Ariel, Sebastian and Ursula; Jasmine, Aladdin and Genie; and Woody, Buzz and Jessie; singing and dancing to popular Disney hits remixed to rock, pop, reggae, hip-hop, country and more.
It’s going to be a frolicsome Disney jam session fit for the entire family, but what is sure to pique the interest of viewers is the venue where this spectacular show will be staged, which is the former New Frontier Theater, reborn into the modern entertainment venue – KIA Theatre. After Disney, international youtube sensation Kina Grannis will take the stage to wow fans with her vocal stylings.
Not to be outdone by the glitz and glamour of the KIA Theatre, the exciting cast of future developments are also set to enter stage-right and take their cue from the evolving Araneta Center redevelopment script.
Bb Pilipinas International 2014 Bianca Guidotti, Miss Universe Philippines 2014 Mary Jean Lastimosa, DCI President Jose Oscar O. Salvacion, Araneta Group ‘s VP for Architecture and Engineering Julie Castro, SVP for Operations Antonio T. Mardo, EEI CEO and President Roberto Jose L. Castillo, Bb Pilipinas Intercontinental Kris Tiffany Janson and Bb Pilipinas Supranational 2014 Yvethe Santiago join the Novotel Manila Araneta Center Topping off Ceremony last July 28 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Green Gate
The Araneta Group, the pioneer in entertainment and leisure development in the country, celebrated the structural-completion of Novotel Manila-Araneta Center in a recent topping off ceremony. The hospitality giant’s first and only hotel in the Philippines is at the tail end of construction, and is poised to invigorate local tourism and bring in revenues to Quezon City.
Well positioned to cater to the needs of more than 56,000 registered businesses in Quezon City, the hotel also aims to take advantage of the increasing volume of domestic and international tourists. Its strategic location, at the intersection of two major thoroughfares (EDSA and Aurora Boulevard), major mass railway lines (MRT 3 and LRT 2) and proximity to all major provincial bus stations, also gives it the strategic advantage as a preferred venue for events north of the Metropolis.
The Novotel Manila Araneta Center hosts 415 rooms, a 600sqm ballroom and large function rooms. Dubbed as the ‘crown jewel, a garden city within a city,’ the property is made even more extravagant with the addition of a lush wedding garden, all-day dining areas and relaxing garden terraces that offer breath-taking views of the city. The hotel will also showcase world-class amenities including a gym, pool bar, upscale restaurants, and 250 parking slots spread out in a total floor area of 40,000 square meters.
Guests are sure to experience the best and finest in hospitality management, perfected by Novotel. The company is a proud member of the Accor Group, the European leader in hotels and tourism and a global leader in corporate services operating in nearly 100 countries.
Set to be the newest hotspot for work and pleasure, the hotel’s ambience was aptly designed to exude both elegance and functionality. Its interiors manifest a cutting edge high tech approach without losing its charm and bits of indigenous flavor.
A synergy of the world’s best construction and design firms were handpicked to develop the project. Among them are Los Angeles-based Architect Sudhakar Thakurdesai, Taiwan’s Kang Tang, Lumino Design, IA49 for the Interiors, Hill & Associates for security, ihD Ltd. for the information technology requirements, audio visuals and acoustics, PGAA for landscaping, and more.
The new Novotel hotel is just one part of the Extreme Transformation development plan within the commercial complex. More developments are set to rise at the Araneta Center skyline, including additional residential condominium towers for Manhattan Garden City, mixed retail and office building Gateway Tower 2 and modern performing arts venue New Frontier.