Support our mission
 

TOKYO — World heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali predicted Wednesday he will "destroy" Antonio Inoki, 6 feet 4 inches of gangling, rawboned grappler, because Inoki talks too much and must be "whupped like a daddy whups his son."

Ali arrived Wednesday night at Tokyo International Airport and went right to the Keio Plaza Hotel to begin a noisy buildup for the June 26 boxer vs. wrestler match with the 245-pound Brazilian-Japanese, a bizarre bout written off by many sports writers as a clownish exhibition rather than a fight.

Ali, who briefly stood taller than the ornate hotel's 47 stories, in effect, insisted it was not. He said he would fight as both a boxer and a "rassler in the match at the Budokan (Hall of Martial Arts) and has a whole bag of imaginative dirty tricks if Inoki pulls any on him.

"I predict that I shall win that I shall destroy him," Ali shrilled to newsmen in the hotel's Concorde Ballroom. "It will all be over in round eight.

"I don't like Inoki because he talks too much. He has no respect. I'm going to whup him like a daddy whups his son!"

Rules of the 15-round match allow Ali to fight with four-ounce gloves. Inoki will be barehanded. The match will be over when either contestant is knocked down for three seconds or 10 or is out of the ring for more than 20. It can also go to a decision.

Ali strode down a red carpet in the downstairs lobby as Japanese who wore the costumes of street musicians beat out a welcome on barrel-like drums and a voluptuous organist in a low-cut blue evening gown played a vibrant fanfare. The welcome was riotous. Red-jacketed bellboys, acting like London Bobbies at a coronation, pushed back a large crowd at the edge of the carpet. Twenty-one hostesses were swallowed in the rush as the crowd surged forward.,

Ali looked a bit tired and somber, as if he was weary of the adulation of crowds and his own bombast that has sold millions of dollars worth of fight tickets. A phalanx of handlers and bellboys cleared his way, but it was 45 minutes before he joined newsmen in the ballroom.

Finally, Ali walked in with burly, white-haired Fred Blassie, a veteran of many years on the wrestling circuit. Also with Ali was Jun Rhee, a diminutive taekwondo (karate) expert.

Ali told newsmen that Blassie, who has wrestled Inoki in the United States, "tells me all of his secrets" and that Rhee has enabled Ali to earn a black belt in karate in only a few months.

"I have always wanted to fight a rassler," Alt declared. "I have always believed that I would destroy a rassler. A great boxer would always destroy a rassler."

Ali said Rhee had taught him the "bullet punch" and the "acupunch," which he demonstrated in slow motion on the smaller man's jaw.

"I used that punch in my last fight in Munich. I knocked the champion of Europe (Richard Dunn) down six times and destroyed him!

Ali said he had been told, "Inoki is preparing illegal tactics, improper methods," and that he plans secret workouts closed to the press and public.

"We're in Japan, Japan is his homeland and we trust no Japanese," Ali said. "You all won't be able to spy on me. We don't want no sneak attacks.

"We are here to annihilate him!"

"Kill him!" Blassie echoed, brandishing a ham-like fist.

"No, I don't believe in killing. I only want to annihilate him!"

Ali and Blassie briefly grappled and Ali demonstrated an under-the-armpit punch he says will break Inoki's elbow if he tries a dirty hold.

"If he does this," Alt says, as Blassie simulated a below-the-belt kick, "I won't tell you what I'll do to him! "

Suddenly, Ali and Blassie rose from their chairs and marched around the edge of the ballroom toward the door, chanting a litany of mayhem.

"Kill him! Massacre! Kill!"

Blassie stopped as he spotted fleshy Japanese wrestler Kokichi Endo, whom he identified as a "spy" from Inoki's camp.

"I know what you're here for, you dirty son of a bitch!" For the next minute or so, he and Ali took turns holding each other back as Endo grinned at them. Endo followed them all the way to the elevator, with Blassie still shouting curses as the doors closed.

Angelo Dundee, Ali's trainer, stood quietly on the edge of the chaos and insisted the match is for real, even though Ali's title is not on the line.

"He's had this thing for a long time," Dundee says. "He's always wanted to fight a wrestler. How does the old song go? Whatever Muhammad wants, Muhammad gets."

For this match, he'll get $6 million.

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up