AHEAD of the Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor pantomime, back in 1976 Muhammad Ali controversially journeyed to Tokyo to take on Japanese Goliath Antonio Inoki in a boxer-wrestler confrontation. Unlike Mayweather-McGregor – a Nevada sanctioned boxing match – almost anything could have happened in the ring, making it impossible to predict the outcome.
Ali wore four ounce gloves, as opposed to the eight ounce gloves he wore as world heavyweight champion. He was allowed to punch but also had the right to switch to wrestling if he kept his gloves on.
Inoki, his hands bare, was allowed to wrestle, throw and chop. He was also allowed to kick.
Neither was allowed to butt, gouge or hit below the belt!
It was scheduled for 15 three-minute rounds.
As with Mayweather, many felt Ali was bringing the game into disrepute by lending himself to such an encounter.
As deplorable as the whole thing was, we had to report on the event because Ali was world heavyweight champion. We could not ignore it.
TOKYO FARCE ENDS IN A DRAW
Muhammad Ali’s multi-million dollar mixed match with Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki turned out to be the non-event of the year as the two respective champions sauntered to a farcical 15 rounds draw before a disappointed crowd at the Budokan Hall, Tokyo.
Referee Gene LeBell scored it 71-71, boxing judge Ko Toyama gave it to Inoki by 72-68, while wrestling judge Kokichi Endo scored it 74-72 to Ali.
The two men’s different styles simply cancelled each other out. Inoki spent virtually the whole contest crawling round the canvas on his buttocks after Ali lashing out with ineffectual kicks.
For his part Ali was content to jig around the ring, maintaining a running commentary of abuse against Inoki and occasionally hacking at the recumbent Japanese with kicks of his own.
Not until the seventh round did Ali throw a punch of any kind, a left jab which fell short.
To be fair to Muhammad it looked as if it was the tactics adopted by Inoki that made it all such a non-event.
By repeatedly diving for the canvas he kept away from Ali’s fists. But it seemed that in the short time that Inoki was upright Muhammad might have gone in behind the jab to throw some rights or left hooks.
Inoki did not once use his hands to deliver a blow of any sort. Karate-style chops had been banned from the list of permissible blows shortly before the contest.
The crowd booed at the end, throwing cushions and programmes into the ring.
“We were both too smart,” Ali said afterwards. “I was thinking of my $6m the whole time”
It was claimed that Ali’s left leg had been badly bruised by Inoki’s kicks but the slight swelling looked insignificant.
Angelo Dundee, in Ali’s corner, looked faintly embarrassed by the whole episode.
At 15st 8lbs Ali looked in good shape. After 15 rounds of circling the 18 foot ring he still looked fresh. He was giving 3lbs to Inoki.
It looked very much like the easiest pay-day the champ has ever had. It was certainly his biggest.
But it did nothing for boxing.
GIANT BEATS CHUCK
Closed-circuit support saw Chuck Wepner overwehelmed in three rounds by mammouth wrestler Andre the Giant.
The bout, scheduled for 10-three minute rounds, was broadcast from Shea Stadium in New York.
In a gross mismatch Wepner conceded over 15 stone to the enormous wrestler.
Chuck, 6ft 5ins and 16st 6lbs, was dwarfed by the grappler’s 7ft 5ins 32 stone frame.
A big heavyweight, Wepner looked like a child beside the massive bulk of the wrestler from Grenoble.
Andre came striaght out at the bell, long curly hair flying, arms swininging low at his side like an ogre in a children’s fairy tale. He fought with a leer on his face from start to finish.
The end, such as it was, came after 1min 15secs of the third when Andre picked Wepner up from behind slamming his legs against the floor, before spinning him round and head-butting him.
Andre seemed careful to land the nut on top of Wepner’s head away from his eyebrows.
The boxer fell against the ropes, before Andre grabbed him, put him into an seroplane spin and chucked him out of the ring.
Wepner was not back in the ring in time and was counted out.
When he did re-enter he jumped on Andre and a wild free-for-all between the rival corners began.
It was a sordid ending to an inconclusive bout.