Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942) is an American former professional boxer, generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the sport's history. A controversial and even polarizing figure during his early career, Ali is today widely regarded not only for the skills he displayed in the ring but for the values he exemplified outside of it: religious freedom, racial justice and the triumph of principle over expedience. He is one of the most recognized sports figures of the past 100 years, crowned "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated and "Sports Personality of the Century" by the BBC.
Born Cassius Clay, at the age of 22 he won the world heavyweight championship in 1964 from Sonny Liston in a stunning upset. Shortly after that bout, Ali joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name. He subsequently converted to Sunni Islam in 1975.
The fight between American boxer Muhammad Ali and Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki was held at the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo on June 26, 1976. At the time, Ali had come off a knockout victory over Richard Dunn in May and was the reigning WBC/WBA Heavyweight Champion. Inoki, who had been taught the art of hooking and shooting by legendary wrestler Karl Gotch, was staging exhibition fights against champions of various martial arts, in an attempt to show that pro wrestling was the dominant fighting discipline. The fight itself, which was fought under special rules, is seen as a precursor to modern mixed martial arts. The result of the fight has been long debated by the press and fans. Gene LeBell worked as referee.