In June this year, boxing legend and former heavyweight champion of the world, Mohammad Ali, passed away at the age of 74. Since 1984, Ali had suffered from Parkinson’s disease – a common ailment among boxers. At the peak of his fame Ali was one of the most recognizable people on the planet. His contribution to the world of sport was invaluable.
Few people know that Ali once took part in a fight with a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. MMA is hugely popular in Phuket so we at RL Magazine felt it would be appropriate to share an article about the occasion.
The historical fight took place back in 1976. Antonio Inoki, a famous MMA fighter, was Ali’s opponent. Ali was 33 years old at the time and he had announced that he was going to finish his career. For his fight with Inoki, special rules were put in place:
1 ) Ali had to wear boxing gloves. Inoki did not.
2 ) There would be 15 rounds. If a fighter left the ring, he had 20 seconds to return.
Commercially this fight was very successful, tickets sold out very quickly: everyone wanted to see the incredible battle. A lot of people claimed the event would be a circus but that didn’t stop people from flocking to the arena.
Mohammad Ali was offered around 6 million dollars for the fight, a sum hard to turn down. The fight took place on June 26, 1976 at the Budokan Arena in Tokyo. The match was highly anticipated by people from both America and Japan due to political tensions.
In New York, the famous wrestling promoter Vince Mcmahon Sr., had a live broadcast of the event on one of the local networks, which cost subscribers $10 and gathered more than 30 thousand viewers. Before the battle, the main topic of conversation was the status of the match. Some said it would end halfway through the expected time slot whilst others claimed that fighters like Ali and Inoki always fought until the end.
For most of the fight, Inoki seemed unstoppable. Ali was used to fights where his aim was to knock out his opponent. He was also used to taunting his opponents, which didn’t go down well with Japanese spectators. In fact a lot of them shouted “Return the money.” in English after the fight was announced as a draw. It was said that it took almost a day to clean the Budokan Arena due to disgruntled fans trashing the place.
Despite their conflict in the ring, Mohammad and Antonio became good friends after the fight. Antonio Inoki finished his unique career on April 4, 1998, after his last fight, which was held in the Japanese capital. His legacy lives on in the world of wrestling, through the Inoki Genome Federation. Mohammad Ali’s legacy also lives on, right around the world.