Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment – Josh Gross (BenBella Books)
June 26, 1976, the place, Tokyo, Japan’s famous Budokan Arena; half a world away in the United States it was still June 25 and at over 150 closed circuit television locations, fight fans gathered to witness a spectacle never before witnessed in the world of sports. The event was so big, fledgling professional wrestling promoter Vince McMahon, Sr. sold nearly 33,000 tickets to a closed circuit broadcast at Shea Stadium. The event matched WBC/WBA heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a 15 round fight with Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki. It was an event like none other up to that point.
I was a teenager at the time, (yes, I am old) and a crazed sports fan I desperately wanted to see this showdown that paired a straight up boxer with a bare knuckled, wrestling martial artist. Like many thing time had erased this from my memory, but now Josh Gross as brought back not only memories of the event and the attendant bacchanalia that went with all thing Ali, but delves deep into the back story behind the fight in Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment.
Gross details the back and forth that went into organizing this event and really highlights not only the history of the event, but the impact that it had many years later in spawning the sports entertainment juggernaut of mixed martial arts. Gross brings back memories of Ali’s showman’s banter being matched, albeit through interpreters, by Inoki, who also knew a thing or two about putting on a show.