Japanese Wrestling Legend Antonio Inoki, Who Fought Muhammad Ali In Special Match, Dead At 79

The Japanese wrestling legend had been battling serious health problems.

Antonio Inoki
Antonio Inoki - Image via @Inoki_Kanji Twitter
  • Japanese wrestling and MMA icon Antonio Inoki dies at age 79
  • Inoki famously fought Muhammad Ali in a mixed rules match in 1976

Japanese wrestling and MMA legend Antonio Inoki passed away at age 79 after years of battling with serious health problems, per Yahoo Japan.

A legendary career

Inoki is considered as one of Japan’s wrestling and martial arts pioneers. He was honed by Japanese legend Rikidozan and catch wrestling icon Karl Gotch. Inoki found more success in professional wrestling and reached the heights in the 1960s and 1970s. He gained popularity in his home country by being able to use catch wrestling in several matches against martial artists from various disciplines, including boxing, judo, karate, and kung fu.

An Ali’s former foe

For obvious reasons, Inoki’s most notable fight was a mixed rules match against the late boxing icon Muhammad Ali in 1976. The special match took place in Japan and was organized as a 15-round, boxer vs. wrestler bout with limited rules to maintain fairness and avoid any favorable advantage for either of the fighters.

For the most part of the fight, Inoki was luring Ali to a grappling match by falling to his back and kicking Ali’s legs. Ali never took the bait and just waited for Inoki to get back to his feet but also threw a couple of kicks on the Japanese while he was on the ground.

The fight was then declared draw and Ali reportedly landed only six punches on Inoki.

A promoter

After his active years in martial arts and wrestling, Inoki remained relevant in the sport, having promoted MMA fights for New Japan Pro Wrestling, an organization he founded in 1972. He also took part in promoting the famous Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye events which became a tradition during New Year’s Eve. The show featured an array of world-class fighters, including Mirko Cro Cop, Don Frye, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

Inoki was also into politics in Japan, having been elected to several different Japanese government offices.

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