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Pakistan condoles death of legendary Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki

Antonio Inoki was extremely popular in Pakistan. In 1976, Inoki was challenged by Pakistani wrestler Akram aka “Akki” and 50,000 spectators showed up at the National Stadium Karachi to watch the match.

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Pakistan is mourning the loss of legendary Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki who passed away earlier today at the age of 79 after years of battling a rare disease.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also expressed his condolences to the wrestler’s family and the Japanese nation. He also shared a throwback image of himself with Antonio Inoki in Lahore.

“Sad to learn about the passing of legendary Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. I have a vivid memory of meeting him at a stadium in Lahore 10 years ago. He mesmerized a whole generation with his rare wrestling prowess. My condolences are with his family and Japanese people,” Shehbaz Sharif tweeted.

Pertinent to mention that Antonio Inoki was one of the biggest names in Japan’s pro-wrestling circuit. His popularity shot up and he went global in 1976 when he had a mixed martial arts match with boxing legend Muhammad Ali, billed as “the bout of the century”.

Antonio Inoki was also extremely popular in Pakistan. In 1976, Inoki was challenged by Pakistani wrestler Akram aka “Akki” and when he came to Pakistan for the encounter, nearly 50,000 spectators turned up for the spectacle at the National Stadium Karachi.

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In 1989, Antonio Inoki entered politics by winning a seat in the upper house of Japan’s parliament and headed the Sports and Peace Party. He traveled to Iraq in 1990 to win the release of Japanese citizens who were held hostage there. He also staged a pro-wrestling match in North Korea.

In 2013, Antonio Inoki returned to Pakistan as part of goodwill celebrations of 60 years of Pak-Japanese diplomatic relations.

Antonio Inoki also converted to Islam in 1990. He had decided to become a Muslim upon his visit to Karbala (the site of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandson’s shrine) and the Holy Mosque.

Interestingly, Antonio Inoki was suggested by people to change his name to Muhammad Ali but he refused and went with Hussain, which was derived from the then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

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“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,” Antonio Inoki had said.