Joe Frazier

The Japanese pro wrestler who almost got Muhammad Ali's leg amputated

The Japanese pro wrestler who almost got Muhammad Ali's leg amputated

If you’ve never heard of the fight that almost got one of Muhammad Ali’s legs amputated, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad sports fan. It probably just means that you’re not Japanese.

In 1975, well-rested from his victory in the “Thrilla in Manila” fight against Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali met the president of the Japan Amateur Wrestling Assn. at a party. After finding out who the man was, he boasted: “Isn’t there any Oriental fighter to challenge me? I’ll give him $1 million if he wins.”

The Japanese press took the quote and ran with it, and before long, a fighter stepped to the challenge. Antonio Inoki, a beefy pro wrestler with a body toughened by...

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