“Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired MMA and Launched Sports Entertainment” Book Review

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Considered one of the biggest debacles in sports history, the day Antonio Inoki stepped into the ring with Muhammad Ali in 1976 was one that lived in infamy – for all the wrong reasons.

40 years later, Josh Gross has put together a book that tells the whole story of everything that led up to this monumental event, and why it ended up being such a dud. Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment is that book, and it is one that I can not stop raving about.

Told in an episodic fashion that ping-pongs between our key players, the grand finale of the book is built up over the course of one hundred pages as Gross as we learn not only the origins of our two combatants, but the sports they respectively participated in, and how they eventually collided into the same world. Part of each man’s story is their past, and that includes understanding who Karl Gotch, Rikidozan, Gene LeBell, Freddie Blassie, and many others. Telling the tale in this fashion creates a parallel between two worlds that seem to be much closer tied than one may initially believe, one with roots in hybrid fighting that go back further than you would expect.

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It’s not just the attention to detail that makes this book enthralling. Josh Gross knows how to tell a story, and when you have something as historical as this the challenge is to make it entertaining. Gross keeps this far away from textbook territory, weaving Ali and Inoki’s origins side by side with a captivating language and wordplay. If you never saw Antonio Inoki before, you would quickly form a picture in your mind after reading about his “landing strip of a chin.” Reading about the fight is far more entertaining than actually watching it, so that is quite a compliment to the craftsmanship of the author.

History comes to life when he retells old stories about pro wrestling from the turn of the century, Ali’s early boxing career, and Inoki’s rise to prominence. Behind the scenes stories from eyewitnesses add life to the past, like what happened to Ali after ‘The Thrilla in Manila,” the painstaking process for the rules of Ali VS Inoki to be created and agreed upon, and the spectacle that became their fight around the world, including “The Showdown in Shea” in NY that preceded the closed-circuit presentation of the mega-fight. Most importantly, the drama of fight night, and what happened once the dust settled!

It’s hard to talk about this type of book without giving away too much info, and that should be enough of a reason to pick it up. Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment is more than just a simple tale of one disastrous fail of fight. It’s a piece of time put into context and locked away for the future generations to understand the importance of the match, despite how awful the bout itself turned out. I love this type of book to begin with, and having one that laser focuses on this particular story is very intriguing and pretty darn riveting. If you love history, pro wrestling, MMA, or just excellent stories about sports, scoop this book up today.


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