Muhammad Ali is known for his successful boxing career, but of all his iconic matches, one of the most epic occurred in a Japanese ring.
In case you haven’t heard, Ali fought a Japanese professional wrestler named Antonio Inoki on June 26, 1976. The mixed martial arts match which was dubbed as “The Bout of the Century” took place at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan Hall. It was filled with an estimated 1.4 billion people from around the world.
However, everyone’s expectations weren’t met after witnessing a bizarre 15-round match. The following day of the epic bout, the Japan Times even declared it as “The 15-round contest was pretty much a bore from start to finish. Ending in a draw, it proved once again that when an apple fights an orange, the results can only be a fruit salad.” (via The Japan Times)
Ali was offered $6 million, so he agreed to fight Inoki. This was after the legendary boxer bragged about giving out $1 million to any Asian fighter who would be willing to beat him. He was taken seriously by the president of the Japanese Amateur Wrestling Association, so they gave him Inoki.
Ali Thought It Was an Exhibition
Ali thought this fight was scripted and that it would be an easy win, but upon arriving in Tokyo, he saw that Inoki was dead serious. The popular Japanese figure, Inoki, was genuinely looking to fight Ali. He was younger, heavier, and he started doing mixed martial arts at an early age.
Since this was a prototype mixed martial arts match-up, there was a special set of rules established. According to The Guardian, “Ali would wear four-ounce gloves and would be able to tag out of any grapple by touching the ropes. Inoki would be bare-handed. There was to be no kneeing, kicking, or hitting below the belt. Anyone thrown out of the ring would have 20 seconds to get back in.”
The Fight Night
The day has finally come. On the 26th of June, 1976, Ali and Inoki were finally going to lock horns at the Nippon Budokan Hall. Both fighters didn’t know what was going to happen, but Ali was probably more shocked with how it all went.
After 15 full rounds, Ali was only able to throw six punches as Inoki laid down aiming kicks at the boxer’s legs. Ali’s wounds were so severe that he almost got his foot amputated. Meanwhile, the unsatisfied crowd at Budokan were clamouring to get their money back.
Inoki dominated by three points, but since he was docked all three for fouls, it was a draw. It was an embarrassing moment for Ali. “How could I knock him down when he was down already?” Ali complained after the fight. “I just couldn’t hit him while he was on the floor.”
As for Inoki, he became one of the most famous men in Japan. The two opponents eventually became good friends, which is another excellent reward aside from their massive payouts.