Antonio Inoki, a Japanese professional wrestling star turned politician, widely known for his match with Muhammad Ali and ties to North Korea, has died aged 79, after years of battling a rare disease, the company he founded said on Saturday.
“New Japan Pro-Wrestling is deeply saddened at the passing of our founder, Antonio Inoki,” the company he started in 1972 posted on Twitter.
“His achievements, both in professional wrestling and the global community are without parallel and will never be forgotten.” Inoki became one of the biggest names on Japan’s pro-wrestling’s circuit in the 1960s. His fame went global in 1976 when he had a mixed martial arts match with boxing legend Muhammad Ali, billed as “the bout of the century”.
The lantern-jawed, 1.9-metre (6-foot-three-inch) performer entered politics, winning a seat in the upper house of Japan’s parliament in 1989. He made headlines the next year going to Iraq during the Gulf War and intervening on behalf of Japanese hostages, who were subsequently released.—Reuters