Friday, May 26, 2017

Ali vs Inoki 1976 CC at MLG

There were several closed-circuit cards shown at MLG over the years, and at various other places around Toronto. The 1976 Ali-Inoki 'War of the Worlds' is one of the only ones that involved wrestling, at least in the TV-in-every-house era.

The bout was highly promoted all over North America and Japan while Toronto fans could catch it at the Gardens.

A couple of weeks prior at MLG they had shown the Foreman -Frazier bout from Vegas.
Attendance at MLG was listed at 4,000 to see Foreman win by knockout in the fifth round,
Promoters in Toronto were All Canada Sports Promotions and Concerts West, All Canada was Irv Ungerman, long time boxing promoter.

Ungerman would also present the Ali-Inoki telecast, this time alongside Frank Tunney Sports.
Tunney held exclusive rights to hold wrestling at MLG which may have been the extent of his involvement (cut of the $) having long since removed himself from the boxing wars in Toronto.

The card set to start at 830pm would include some bouts from New York's Shea Stadium show which had Bruno vs Hansen, Scicluna vs Putski, Gonzales vs Sullivan, White Wolf and Strongbow vs The Executioners, the mixed Andre vs Chuck Wepner for 10 rounds, then the Ali-Inoki from Tokyo sched for 15. Tickets at MLG were priced from $8-15 , bit cheaper than the Foreman-Frazier which were priced at $10-20.

For comparison Tunney's regular wrestling shows at this time were $2.50- 7

Prior to the show in a Jim Proudfoot Star column, Gene Kiniski had predicted 'if it's on the level, Ali hasn't got a chance.' Kiniski,. a pretty smart guy, predicted that Inoki 'has got to go to the canvas, that's where any wrestler would go - for the legs- if Inoki stays on his feet, you'll know he's going to get himself knocked out.' Not only smart but still incredibly humble Kiniski added 'I've wrestled Inoki a few times and...he's nothing special.'

As we all know that's how the bout played out, generally viewed as a rather big disappointment after all of the hype.

The next day on the front page of the Star was a pic of Ali in full face of surprise looking down at Inoki on his back. The caption, all in caps screamed THEY GOT $!0 MILLION FOR THIS!

About 8,000 turned up at MLG to watch it. Ungerman declared it 'a disgrace and I'm embarrassed.'
MLG was one of 18 locations across the country to show it.
'Never again. We blew a tube at our Hamilton location and had to refund admissions to about 1,000 people. They were lucky' added Ungerman.

The wrestling fans weren't quite so upset, the whole card wasn't too bad and the Andre- Wepner bout laid some of the framework for the Rocky movies.

The 'real' sports world was slow to accept the combo of Boxing and 'rasslin. Writer Jim Kerhaghan in the Star added that the Andre-Wepner bout was 'highly suspect' and after Andre got Chuck in a headlock  'that those who were watching closely noticed that Andre had his hand on Wepner's head and bonked his own knuckles.'

Welcome to 'pro wrestling' Jim.









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