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Antonio Inoki was respected for not being afraid of a challenge, whether it was a duel with heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali or negotiating hostage release with the Iraqi government. For this reason, he was often called “Burning Fighting Spirit”.
Inoki died at the age of 79 after battling a rare disease called amyloidosis, his company New Japan Pro Wrestling announced Saturday.
“His achievements in both professional wrestling and the international community are unparalleled and will never be forgotten,” the Pro Wrestling Group wrote in a statement.
Kanji “Antonio” Inoki was born in Yokohama, Japan in 1943, but spent most of his childhood in Brazil where his family moved. There, Inoki became enthusiastic about professional wrestling, and he introduced himself as “Antonio.”
He was soon recruited by Rikidozan, one of the most famous Japanese wrestlers of all time, and returned to Tokyo to join the Japan Wrestling Association.
Inoki quickly became widely popular for his versatility and charisma in the ring. A few years later, he started his own wrestling company called New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 1972.
Inoki gained worldwide fame in 1976 when he faced Muhammad Ali in a rare wrestler-boxer match in Tokyo. The bout became known for pioneering what we know today as mixed martial arts, in which fighters can use any style of fighting.
Outside the ring, Inoki was known for his attempts to build peace and diplomacy through sports.
In 1990, Inoki helped free 36 Japanese hostages held in Iraq.
The late wrestler visited North Korea more than 30 times during his lifetime, making him one of the few ties to Japan’s dictatorship. Most notably, Inoki organized his two major sports festivals, one in Pyongyang in 1995 and one in 2014, to gain international attention. is.
The first event, known as “Collision in Korea”, attracted approximately 380,000 spectators and was considered the largest pay-per-view in professional wrestling history.
Inoki retired from wrestling in 1998 and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.Although he is technically considered the first Japanese World Champion in his WWE history, the title is not yet recognized by organization.
“Antonio Inoki was one of the most respected figures in sports entertainment and a true legend in his hometown,” WWE said in a statement. got a nickname. It means “burning fighting spirit”. “