The death of Antonio Inoki when the wrestler slapped the

The death of Antonio Inoki when the wrestler slapped the fans (and they all smiled…

by Alessandro Fulloni

The story of journalist Alex Dandi, one of the greatest connoisseurs of martial arts mysteries and commentator on Dazn: “I saw the scene in Tokyo during a study trip. That was Japan…Antonio? Iconic character between Alì and Bruce Lee, athlete and actor ”

But who was really Antonio Inoki, the legendary wrestler who died in Japan at the age of 79? “For me, he was one of the few truly iconic figures in the world of martial arts and wrestling, along with Muhammed Ali and Bruce Lee, the first real athlete, the second actor. Inoki was right in the middle … Exactly: a bit athletic and a bit actor ». Drawing the portrait of this champion – unforgettable for many, mostly in their fifties – is Alex Dandi, 49, one of the greatest connoisseurs of martial arts mysteries and Dazn’s official commentator on matches in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the most famous league.

Inoki the fighter, Inoki the politician, Inoki the pacifist…

“Inoki many things, for sure. He was a true icon of professional wrestling, known in Japan as puroresu (pronounced prores, or as the Japanese perceive the American pronunciation of pro wrestling), but also a true promoter of a healthy and sporty fighting culture, and also a distinguished politician. true pacifist, as many rightly emphasize in these hours ».

A face that will not be forgotten…

“All of my generation who were born in the ’70s and ’70s and ’80s grew up here in Italy watching Japanese Puroresu matches on private TVs, which we mistakenly called ‘catch’, from catch wrestling because of the Japanese style of “fake” pro is wrestling was particularly likely using catch wrestling, judo and jiu-jitsu techniques. Unintentionally, Inoki was also a pioneer of mixed martial arts thanks to his style and popularity… ».

“The cult date, the turning point, is July 27, 1976, when Inoki faced Muhammed Ali in the first interstile fight between a fighter and a boxer. It was around this time that journalists from all over the world began to talk about mixed martial arts, although it was not defined as a sport in its own right, which will be the case much later ».

Do you have a personal memory of Inoki?

«Personally, I was not present at the events that Inoki performed in Italy in the late 80s and early 90s, which were always little known. But in 2009 I went to Japan, to Tokyo, to an event organized by his IGF, the Inoki Genome Federation, and he was there in person, dressed in white with his symbolic red scarf. Only then did I realize how important it was to the Japanese. During the intermission of the event, there was a very orderly and endless line of people who wanted to greet him and were hit with a choreographic but also ominous slap in the face! And everyone was happy and cheered as they went back to sit down, their faces flushed or their fingers moldy on their faces ».

«Personally, I didn’t feel like queuing in this arena, which was only crowded with Japanese people and no tourists, it seemed a bit crazy and extreme. But now, in hindsight, maybe I should have, because that was a martial way, if a bit brutal, to show deep appreciation and respect for Antonio Inoki, who was one of the few true icons in the fighting world, even if his fights are They were always choreographed, probably the ones with Muhammed Ali too ».

Coming back to this game: a “farce” and “mockery” for the newspapers of the time, or a real fight?

«Interested parties have always claimed that the game was real, but no historical and definitive truth will ever be known. There was no real sporting commission and one can only speculate. I repeat: we will probably never know the truth, especially now that both Inoki and Ali and the referee of this game, legendary judoka and stuntman Gene LeBell, who passed away in August at the age of 89, are gone » .

October 2, 2022 (change October 2, 2022 | 07:39)