Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest boxers of all time. Known for his competitiveness, Ali took on all comers, including pro wrestlers. One of the most famous matches Ali had was against Pro Wrestling and WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki.
On Bruce Prichard's Something to Wrestle podcast, Bruce and Conrad Thompson looked back at Ali as a huge wrestling fan, and what the wrestlers meant to the boxing world at the time.
"Ali grew up as a wrestling fan," Prichard stated. "He got his wrap from Gorgeous George back in the '50s. He loved Bruno and those guys from that era. Monsoon to him was like a larger than life character. A boxer, even Mike Tyson, they were afraid of the wrestler because they knew if the wrestler ever got you down you were dead. As good as you are with your hands if that wrestler gets you down and ties you up in a knot there's not much you can do, especially with boxing gloves on."
When talking about planning for Ali v. Inoki, the idea was to do a best v. best contest. While Bruno Sammartino was a well-known name in the U.S. compared to Inoki, the match did appeal to a world audience. Prichard went on to say that Ali would try to provide the pro wrestling scene as much exposure as he could. One of the people who made a lasting impact during Ali's run was Gorilla Monsoon.
"What they had to do was they had to bring Ali into these different territories and do something with their local guy," Prichard continued. "In Minneapolis, they did it with Buddy Wolfe, in New York, they did it with Gorilla Monsoon. Monsoon's whole thing is that you're (Ali) not going to embarrass me. Just to let Ali know that he can take him anytime he wanted to, Monsoon went and got him and did the airplane spin. Bundini Brown's on the outside of the ring, Ali's manager, they didn't know, so they're all upset. Not everybody was smartened up. Monsoon does this airplane spin, drops Ali and Ali's dizzy, and it was picked up by everybody. I remember seeing it in Houston as a kid."
After that, Ali would have Freddie Blassie teach him the ropes. The fight between him and Inoki on June 26, 1976 was held in the Budokan Arena in Japan and the end result was a 15-round draw. Many question the way the fight went down, but according to Prichard, it went exactly as planned.
"It became a shoot to a point, but it was always designed to be a work."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Something to Wrestle with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.