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Forty years ago this month marks the 40th anniversary of the boxer vs wrestler match where Muhammad Ali faced New Japan pro wrestling legend Antonio Inoki. In Ali’s corner was Angelo Dundee and pro wrestling legend, manager Classy Freddie Blassie.
In May of 2003, a month before his passing, the Hollywood Fashion Plate, Classy Freddie Blassie told Chris Yandek of CYInterview about being in Ali’s corner for the boxer vs wrestler match:
“Muhammad Ali was one of the nicest gentleman I ever had the pleasure to meet. He never disputed anything I told him. When he went over to wrestle, fight Antonio Inoki, Inoki kept staying on the mat all the time and kept kicking, and they’d come back in after the end of the round, and Muhammad Ali would tell Angelo Dundee, who was his manager that, ‘I am gonna go out and get on the mat with him.’ And I told him, I said, ‘Don’t you dare do that. It will be the biggest mistake of your life. What he’ll do is break your leg and he’ll break your arm because a boxer has no chance whatsoever with a wrestler.’ Whenever you have a mixed match with wrestler versus boxer, boxer versus wrestler, you can always bet your bottom dollar that the boxer’s going to lose.”
You can read more from Freddie Blassie and see comments from fellow boxing legend George Foreman and boxing historian Bert Sugar on Muhammad Ali at this link!