Popular wrestler and politician Antonio Inoki dead at 79

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By MARI YAMAGUCHI

 

TOKYO (AP) — A popular Japanese professional wrestler and lawmaker Antonio Inoki, who faced a world boxing champion Muhammad Ali in a mixed martial arts match in 1976, has died at 79.

Inoki brought Japanese pro-wrestling to fame and pioneered mixed martial arts matches between top wrestlers and champions from other combat sports like judo, karate and boxing.

Inoki, who was battling a rare disease called amyloidosis, died earlier Saturday, according to the New Japan Pro-Wrestling Co., of which he was the founding president.

He rose to global fame in the sport in 1976 when he faced Ali in a mixed martial arts match at Tokyo’s Budokan hall, an exhibition match that Japanese fans remember as “the fight of the century.”

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