Video – Muhammad Ali battles Antonio Inoki at historic 1976 MMA event in Japan

Muhammad Ali

Billed at The War of the Worlds – a battle of sports icons, boxing great, the late Muhammad Ali, and professional wrestling veteran, Antonio Inoki has once more emerged into the spotlight, 46-years on from the historic Tokyo, Japan matchup.

Ali, who passed away back in June 2016 at the age of 74 after a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s as well as deteriorating and declining health, made the trip to the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo in 1976, sharing the squared circle with Japanese professional wrestling star, Inoki in one of the most acclaimed and historic sports cross overs in history.

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The battle, which was contested between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki, took place over the course of 15 rounds in an eventual draw, took place under ‘special rules’ – however, Ali sporting boxing gloves, and Inoki, sporting wrestling boots and shorts, were considered to compete under certain mixed martial arts rules. The matchup was also refereed by the late, Gene LeBell – credited ‘The Godfather of Grappling’ – who passed away earlier this week at the age of 89 years old. 

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Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki battled over 15 rounds to a draw

Electing to play guard and often pull guard on occasion, Inoki, a professional wrestling pioneer often laid on his back over the course of the 15 round limit, attempting to chop at Ali’s legs and hope to limit the movement of the Louisville, Kentucky favorite. 

Credited with outlining the first of many subsequent cross-over athletic contests in professional combat sports, the subject of Ali – Inoki was brought up over the course of the build-up, pre-fight, and then post-fight of note in 2017 ahead of another prominent boxing match between former multiple-time and weight champion, Floyd Mayweather, and former two-weight UFC champion, Conor McGregor.

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Touted worldwide as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time and to the consensus, the greatest heavyweight his generation – Muhammad Ali ended his career boasting a 56-5 professional record, featuring in historic events including TheTrilla in Manila, as well as The Rumble in the Jungle.

Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.