At the age of 79, the wrestling legend, Japanese politician Muhammad Hussein Inoki (formerly Antonio Inoki) passed away yesterday, Saturday, after a rich sports biography and distinguished political positions.

He became famous after his match with boxing champion Muhammad Ali Clay, as he followed the path of this American legend, and converted to Islam in 1990 during his visit to Iraq. He was also known for his visit to North Korea and his invitation to build bridges with it.

The biography of an athlete rarely contains the biography of Inoki, the first name is not common in Japan, where the name is Kanji, and it seems that he acquired the name Antonio in Brazil, where he had to move with his family in 1957 and lived there for a few years.

Inoki was born in 1943 into a wealthy family in Yokohama, south of the capital, Tokyo, and the son before the last was among his seven siblings, and his father, a businessman and politician, died at the age of five, the age at which he began to learn karate from his brother, and his height helped him to join a football team Basketball at Yokohama Middle School.

In the years following the end of World War II, his family went through harsh conditions and years, so he emigrated with his grandfather, mother and brothers to Brazil in 1957, and he was 14 years old at the time, but his grandfather died during the migration journey.

During his stay in Brazil, he won local and regional championships in discus, javelin and shot put.

His story with wrestling

He left Brazil and returned to Japan at the age of 17, where his journey began early with wrestling after he was discovered by the famous wrestler Rikidozan, a Korean of Japanese origin, who owes him the credit for his sports career.

In 1964, he left Japan for the United States on a 3-year sports trip sponsored by an American sports company involved in organizing wrestling tournaments, during which he won several championships and became the biggest star of that company until his return to his country.

Where he became the founder of the golden age of wrestling in Japan.

Inoki faces Clay during the "match of the century" in Tokyo 43 years ago (Pakistani press)

wrestler vs boxer

Thanks to his distinctive wrestling techniques such as "Cobra Twist", "Manjigatami" and "Inzujiri Kick", Inoki made a breakthrough in the world of wrestling with other famous wrestlers and became one of the biggest names in the Japanese wrestling circuit in the 1960s before turning to boxing to become the first Asian champion in that sport.

On June 26, 1976, Inoki fought the then world boxing champion Muhammad Ali in a "wrestler vs boxer" match at the Budokan Hall in Tokyo, during which Inoki tried to prove that professional wrestling was the greatest form of martial arts.

The match was dominated by the sight of Inoki lying on his back kicking his opponent's leg in an unusual scene in boxing fights.

After 15 rounds, Clay fired more than 10 punches, and the match ended in a draw.

Clay described it as the "match of the century" and the idea was picked up by American sports companies to create mixed matches between wrestlers and boxers that brought in millions of dollars in profits and are still going on today.

world of politics

Inoki, the 1.9-meter athletic champion, entered politics in 1989 while still an active wrestler, winning a seat in Japan's upper house of parliament for his "Sports and Peace" party.

In 1990, Inoki traveled to Iraq on an "unofficial diplomatic mission" and successfully negotiated with the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for the release of the 41 Japanese hostages before the outbreak of the first Gulf War.

He himself organized a wrestling championship in Iraq with the aim of liberating them, which has already been achieved.

While in Iraq, he visited the city of Karbala and declared his Islam, and chose the name of the Islamist Muhammad Hussein Inoki

Inoue developed close ties with North Korea because his wrestling mentor Rikidozan came from North Korea but could not return home after the war divided the peninsula, made numerous visits to Pyongyang as a deputy and met high-ranking officials, saying Tokyo could play a role in mediating with its nuclear neighbor.

He also employed sports diplomacy to serve these endeavors, and in 1995, he organized a wrestling tournament in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, which was attended by more than 100,000 fans. He also visited North Korea on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, and met with a high-ranking North Korean figure during visit him.

In November 2013, he was suspended from Parliament for 30 days due to an unauthorized trip to Korea. This was Inoki's 27th visit to North Korea.

He explained in an interview that North Korea's kidnappings of Japanese citizens had prompted the Japanese government to "close the door" on diplomacy with North Korea, but the issue would not be resolved without constant communication.

In September 2017, Inoki reiterated his position that Japan should do more to conduct a cooperative dialogue with North Korea, following North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles over Hokkaido followed by other controversial flights.

Inoki, wearing the Pakistani national dress and wearing the distinctive head covering of the Pashtun ethnicity, during his visit to the city of Peshawar to watch a local Pakistani wrestling championship (European Archive)

Islamic popular

The wrestler, who converted to Islam in 1990, was very popular in the Islamic world, especially in Pakistan. In 1976, Inoki challenged Pakistani wrestler Akram nicknamed "Aki" and when he came to Pakistan for a showdown, he was surprised to see nearly 50,000 spectators attending. The event is at Karachi National Stadium.

Inoki returned to Pakistan in 2013 again as part of the goodwill celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of Pakistan-Japan diplomatic relations, and following the announcement of his death yesterday, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif tweeted his condolences to the Inoki family and the Japanese people.

“He has mesmerized an entire generation with his rare wrestling prowess