At Ali Mall, last-minute preparations for a Muhammad Ali tribute

Feeling nostalgic, Coconuts Manila paid a visit to Ali Mall in Cubao this afternoon to check if the only shopping center in the world named after Muhammad Ali has set up anything to celebrate the late boxer’s life.

There was nothing new, apart from two amateur paintings hanging on the lower ground floor and a glass etching on the upper ground floor, which were there even before Ali died on Jun 3.

One of the security guards we asked was, like us, disheartened. No one came to offer flowers, she said, but there have been people dropping by to check if the mall has mounted an Ali tribute.

The answer is, it’s coming soon.

After some high-quality sleuthing that involved social climbing, we found out that the staff of Araneta Center (which manages the mall) has been working overtime to mount a Muhammad Ali tribute by Fri, Jun 10.

Ali’s funeral will be held in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, on the same day, US time.

The mall’s activity center will be transformed into an Ali exhibition area, which will display archival footage that includes a photo of Ali cutting the ribbon during Ali Mall’s formal opening a year after “Thrilla in Manila” was held next door at the Araneta Coliseum.

They will show images of the pre- and actual fight, and of the reception Jorge Araneta hosted at the family’s Bahay na Puti a day after the fight.

It was there, it is said, that Araneta told Ali that he wanted to name a mall after him. Ali was supposedly so thrilled he agreed and did not even charge royalty.

The mobile phones of collectors have been ringing non-stop, we hear, and some good precious items to watch out for are a well-preserved poster of the fight that’s dated Sep 30 (instead of Oct 1, 1975, because it was targeted towards US viewers), and the gold and silver souvenir coins with the faces of Ali and Joe Frazier in front and a map of the Philippines on the back. (Frazier’s surname is misspelled as “Frazer”.)

Ali and Frazier memorial coin
Gold and silver commemorative coins were issued for the “Thrilla in Manila” fight, but oops, Frazier’s name was misspelled. PHOTO: Pinoy Kollektor

You can see pictures of several Thrilla in Manila memorabilia in this excellent blog, Pinoy Kollektor.

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