Quick Bits: Ali vs Inoki Closed Circuit MLG

There were several closed-circuit cards shown at Maple Leaf Gardens over the years, and at other spots around Toronto. The 1976 Ali-Inoki 'War of the Worlds' card was a rare one that included pro wrestling.

A couple of weeks earlier they had  shown the Foreman -Frazier bout from Las Vegas at MLG. Attendance was listed at 4,000 to see Foreman win by knockout in the fifth round. All Canada Sports Promotions and Concerts West promoted the telecast. All Canada was headed by Irv Ungerman, a 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 was the extent of his involvement (cut of the $), having long since removed himself from the boxing wars in Toronto.

The card was set to start at 830pm and included some bouts from New York's Shea Stadium wrestling show which had Bruno Sammartino vs Stan Hansen and a few other bouts, Andre the Giant vs Chuck Wepner in a wrestler vs boxer bout for 10 rounds, and then the Ali-Inoki from Tokyo scheduled for 15 rounds. Tickets in Toronto were priced from $8-15, a bit cheaper than the Foreman-Frazier bout which were priced at $10-20.

For comparison Tunney's regular wrestling shows 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.' Kiniski added 'I've wrestled Inoki a few times and...he's nothing special.'

As the bout played out, it was generally viewed as a rather big disappointment after all the hype.

The next day on the front page of the Star was a pic of Ali looking down at Inoki on his back. The caption, all in caps screamed ...

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

The wrestling fans weren't quite so upset. Different expectations.

The sports world was slow to accept the combo of boxing and wrestling (known as mit-mat cards in the early days). Writer Jim Kerhaghan in the Star wrote that the Andre-Wepner bout was 'highly suspect' and after Andre got Chuck in a headlock ‘those who were watching closely noticed that Andre had his hand on Wepner's head and bonked his own knuckles.'