Japanese wrestler Anotonio Inoki (centre) with Pakistan's Ambassador to Japan Noor Muhammad Jadmani and Pakistan-born Japanese national Khawar Khokhar. – Photo courtesy author
Japanese wrestler Anotonio Inoki (centre) with Pakistan's Ambassador to Japan Noor Muhammad Jadmani and Pakistan-born Japanese national Khawar Khokhar. – Photo courtesy author

Nearly four decades after his bouts with Pakistani hulks, renowned Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki is set to return to the country.

Preparations are underway for the arrival of the wrestler as part of goodwill celebrations of 60 years of Pak-Japanese diplomatic relations and he also met with Pakistan’s ambassador to Japan Noor Muhammad Jadmani recently.

In 1976, Inoki was challenged by Pakistani wrestler Akram aka “Akki” and when he came to Pakistan for the encounter, he was surprised to see nearly 50,000 spectators turn up for the spectacle at the National Stadium Karachi.

“The fight took place despite a difference in the styles and rules of wrestling between the two sides,” Inoki said, adding that the match became so intense that it turned into a battle for survival.

A Dawn file image shows an advertisement promoting Inoki's fight in Pakistan. – Dawn file
A Dawn file image shows an advertisement promoting Inoki's fight in Pakistan. – Dawn file

Reminiscing about the fight, Inoki said, “I still have marks on my wrist that Akki gave me when he wrenched at it with his teeth. I had to poke my fingers in his eyes to get him away.” The Japanese maestro said he was never happy about defeating Akki.

Later on, Inoki also went on to meet Akki’s nephew, Zubair aka Jhara, in the ring. The fight ended in a draw but Inoki said he held up Jhara’s hand to declare him the winner.

Speaking about his upcoming trip to Pakistan, Inoki said he had been wanting to visit Akki’s grave for a long time but never got the opportunity to do it earlier.

Inoki, who converted to Islam in 1990, said that he decided to become a Muslim upon his visit to Karbala (the site of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) grandson’s shrine) and the holy mosque.

“When I converted, people suggested that I change my name to Muhammad Ali but I turned down the idea as I had already fought against the great boxer Ali.”

He then decided to go with Hussain, which was derived from the then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

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