The Associated Press reports that Japanese wrestler and politician Antonio Inoki has died at the age of 79. I was a high school teacher who paid good money to attend his whatever-it-was with Muhammad Ali televised live from Tokyo’s Budokan over closed circuit at the Minneapolis Auditorium in June 1976.
Inoki contended with Ali during most of the 15 rounds by kicking him while positioned on his back. Ali taunted him to stand up and “fight like a man,” and I believe the Japanese audience even joined in. I did not understand the rules of engagement. As Jerry Lee Lewis might put it, whole lotta kickin’ goin’ on.
The Guardian has a well-researched 4,000-word account of whatever-it-was in “The forgotten story of…Muhammad Ali v Antonio Inoki.” When Ali died the New York Times declared it “Ali’s least memorable fight.” Newsweek published an excerpt of Josh Gross’s book on the whatever-it-was. A YouTube video here delivers the “highlights” with commentary. The video shows Inoki fighting dirty.
I lost track of Inoki after the disappointing spectacle. The AP obituary makes clear that he led an interesting and constructive life. However, I would still like my money back.