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  Feb. 20, 2001



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Boxers & wrestlers belong in different rings
Heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali surprises wrestler Gorilla Monsoon June 2, 1976 in Philadelphia. -- UPI photo, from Sun files
By JIM TAYLOR -- Sun Media

The wire story from Tokyo was disrespectfully short on details, considering the legend it was evoking.

In announcing that (Iron) Mike Tyson will wrestle on pay-per-view TV from Tokyo next June, it concluded:

"This will not be the first boxer vs. wrestler match in New Japan history. On June 25, 1976, Inoki wrestled former boxing world champion Muhammad Ali. The bout, a 15-round draw in Tokyo, was a 'worked' match combining aspects of wrestling and boxing."

It was much more than that and much less.

It was a scam, as this one surely will be: Ali vs. Inoki in the main event from Tokyo, Andre the Giant vs. Chuck Wepner, a.k.a, The Bayonne Bleeder, because his skin would split at a cutting glance, from the U.S. All yours on the big screen for $10, $12.50 if you were tryin' to impress the current babe-on-the-arm.

Let's see if I've still got my notes...

First, the semi-main:

Wepner draws cheers when he contemptuously throws away his headgear, which he could have used later when Andre drops him carefully over the ropes after standing there a moment with the Bleeder at arms length above his head as though trying to remember what to do with him.

And the ending -- boy, when Wepner tries to get back into the ring to get at the Giant, and Andre's advisor, Gorilla Monsoon goes after Wepner -- oops, a no-decision bout, boys! We gotta switch to Tokyo!

First, the rules:

Inoki: No karate. No kicking except with the side of his boot. No kicking above the waist.

Ali: Do your thing, and you can break any hold by touching -- touching! -- the ropes.

Inoki's strategy became apparent when he rushed out at the opening bell to throw his legs at Ali and his butt at the canvas.

And there he stayed for 15 rounds, inching his way across the floor on his behind, flailing away with his boots at Ali's left leg. ("It's hemorrhaging!" screamed the announcer. "Ali's corner looks worried!")

Ali threw his first punch in the seventh round, his second in the 10th.

In the 13th, he picked up the pace and threw two. In all, he threw six punches, unless you count the two times he reached out and grabbed Inoki's foot.

Inoki actually tripped him to the canvas twice. Once he kneed him, whereupon Ali climbed through the ropes and threatened to go home.

That was after Angelo Dundee demanded that Inoki have the tips of his shoelaces taped because one of the eyelets was loose and it was cutting Ali's legs. I tell you, it got pretty tense.

But there was no quit in Ali. He'd earn his $6 million, boy. He leaped into the ring and ran around in circles doing monkey impersonations and screaming "Inoki coward! Inoki no fight!"

Inoki didn't have to fight. For lying on his butt for 45 minutes, kicking his feet like a baby with diaper rash, he made $4 million.

Barring a claim by Xaviera Hollander, the madame turned publisher who made her living doing roughly the same thing, it was considered a record.

No doubt it will be broken by Tyson-Whoever come June. The promoter should know all the tricks. His name is Antonio Inoki.
Jim Taylor is a columnist for Sun Media and can be emailed at jetset5@ibm.net.



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