Muhammad Ali’s Epic ‘Comedy’ Struggle with Antonio Inoki Holds Lessons for Fury vs Ngannou Showdown


It was the summer time of 1976; Ali was the world heavyweight champion, and a few males in Japan got here up with a monetary package deal for Ali to satisfy famend wrestler, Antonio Inoki. It was scheduled for 15 rounds of three minutes, and it was for the ‘heavyweight martial arts championship of the world’ belt. Sound acquainted?

It was, belief me, not the joke you thought it was. For a begin, it was meant to be a repair, a rigged encounter with blood, comedy, motion and a basic wrestling twist. Ali received wind of the repair and refused to attend rehearsals.

The plan was easy: Ali would beat Inoki mindless for six or seven rounds, the wrestler was ready to chop himself with razor blades after which, due to all of the blood, it will be stopped in Ali’s favour. At that time, with Ali’s hand raised and 20,000 Japanese followers howling, Inoki was meant to leap on Ali’s again and pin him. Glorious stuff – Ali rejected it.


It got here at an important time in Ali’s profession. He had simply stopped Richard Dunn in Munich to retain his heavyweight title; Dunn was dropped repeatedly, and so they had been the final knockdowns Ali ever scored. He fought seven extra instances, in six world title fights, however by no means dropped one other man. He met males like Ken Norton, Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes and Earnie Shavers in that interval; everyone within the Ali enterprise got here to remorse every terrible struggle throughout that point. The hidden accidents from the Inoki farce added to the decline.

The Inoki circus was conceived and bought as a protected solution to make $6million and never get harm; neither factor occurred. At a ‘contract-signing’ occasion the night time earlier than, which was accessible to followers at a value, they agreed it will be winner-takes-all. Ali additionally had 4 suites and 31 rooms at the most effective lodge in Tokyo; this was not a joke.

“I can’t let boxing down,” Ali stated earlier than the struggle. “He’s not used to taking hard shots to the head. The moment I go upside his head, it’s over.” Ali’s evaluation is true, however the guidelines weren’t made clear.



Inoki dropped to his again and chased Ali for 15 rounds from that place on the canvas. In complete, Ali threw six punches and related twice; it was repetitive and boring, with Inoki on his again kicking out at Ali. At the top, it was declared a draw. There was no grandstand wrestling second and there had definitely not been a single high quality second of boxing. Ali’s legs had been minimize, bleeding and broken from Inoki’s laborious wrestling boots and the handfuls of kicks he had sustained. It was the eyelets on the boots that prompted the superficial injury; the actual injury was hidden as ruptured blood vessels fashioned.

Ali was instructed to relaxation the leg and get it handled earlier than leaving Tokyo, however he had commitments in Korea and Malaysia; when he received again to America, he was hospitalised with blood clots and muscle injury. His left leg remained broken till the top of his boxing profession.

Ali completed with about $2.2m {dollars} for the occasion; Inoki had been assured $2m, however was paid only a fraction of that complete. In Tokyo, in that ring, no one gained. It could be humorous if the martial arts championship of the world belt was discovered and given to Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia in October. That could be cool.


Incidentally, the struggle was being proven all around the world on closed-circuit screens. In New York, outside at Shea Stadium, it was a part of the night time when Chuck Wepner, the inspiration for Rocky, met Andre the Giant in a wrestling ring. The Ali and Inoki struggle was proven on massive screens. What a time to be a fan.

Anyway, again in 1976, Ali limped on, preventing from reminiscence for too many individuals and for a lot too lengthy, and Inoki, effectively, he turned a real combined martial arts pioneer and icon. The massive lad was in entrance of all curves. Inoki died final 12 months and fought for the final time in 1998 when he was near 60.

The man who busted Ali’s legs was way over only a novelty act on the wrestling circuit.


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