Antonio Inoki and Sugar Ray Leonard
Muhammad Ali, Rickson Gracie, Mike Tyson, Sakuraba, Roberto Duran, and
From SRSDX No. 38
Translated by Roberto
Inoki: How are you?
Ray: It’s an honor to
Inoki: It’s an
unparalleled pleasure for me too.
have used your fame as a wrestler to work in government service [Mr
Inoki was formerly a member of the Japanese parliament] , and to help
Japanese children in various ways. I really respect that.
Inoki: Sankyu beree
machee [Inoki says in English (more or less)]. I am also a fan
of yours. I’ve seen your fights.
Ray: I also saw your
fight with Muhammed Ali. Your fight with Muhammed Ali was your biggest
event, wasn’t it?
Inoki: Yes, that’s
Ray: The first thing I
want to ask is, when you were fighting Ali, who, as a boxer, has a
completely different fighting style [from what you were accustomed to],
what was your strategy?
Inoki: First, it was
out of the question to try to exchange punches with Ali. I had to avoid
his punch at all costs. Otherwise it would end up with only one punch.
The only possibility for me was to try to take the fight to the
Inoki: What was your
Ray: My fights with
[Tommy “Hit Man” ] Hearns and [Roberto] Duran were big events, but
if you mean my biggest event, then I think I would have to say my fight
with Marvin Hagler. I had been out of action for three years. Everyone
around me told me I couldn’t win. I didn’t listen to them. I fought
with my head and my heart and strategy. It was my biggest event.
Inoki: It was a
Ray: A fighter, an
athlete, must have a “fighter’s mentality” Without
and “heart”, you can’t be a fighter, and we couldn’t have had
the experiences we had. In that sense, we have a lot in common.
Inoki: That’s right.
We are the same type of man. Even though today is the first time I’ve
met you, I feel like I’ve known you for a long time. (laughing).
Ray: Well, as
fighters, who put it on the line [against opponents who are trying to
hurt us], we can feel a special kind of pride. I am a fan of Pride.
I’d like to sit next to you at the Pride event that you are producing
and discuss things.
Inoki: Yes by all
means, come. The Japanese fans are waiting too.
Ray: There is one thing
I’d like to ask. What is the Pride “Dream Match” that you’d like
to see? Who against who? Personally, I would select Sakuraba versus
Rickson Gracie. There’s really no other fight than that one, really.
Rickson is a friend of mine and I am teaching him
how to box. He is the Number One warrior, in my opinion.
Inoki: That’s true,
isn’t it? That would be a good one at that weight. Yet, there are also
a lot of good young big fighters out there, such as Fujita, and other
pro-wrestlers, who deserve a chance to show what they can do in Pride
Ray: Rickson and
Sakuraba, will it take place?
Inoki: Well, Rickson
doesn’t fight very often and he wants to select his opponent
Ray: I’m a friend of
Rickson and the Rickson I know would never duck any opponent. A champion
is someone who doesn’t duck tough opponents. There may be a reason why
Rickson is not fighting just now, but because he is a champion he will
fight any time [his conditions are met?]
Inoki: Well, the fans
sometimes want to see fights that are impossible to make. If it [Sakuraba
vs. Rickson] happens, it will be like a dream.
Ray: Pride’s concept
of matching judokas against karatekas and having them battle it out
until the best man is the one left standing at the end, that is really a
great thing. This idea of having fighters with different backgrounds get
together and fight, man against man, to determine who is the strongest,
this is really a fantastic concept.
Inoki: What do you
think about a boxer getting it on in Pride?
Ray: I would like to
see it. Especially Mike Tyson. He has a tremendously powerful body and
fights low to the ground, in a crouch. If he understands ground
techniques, he has the potential to win. He also knows how to bite well
Ray: But, it seems that
90% of the action in Pride takes place on the ground,
so a judoka would be at less of a disadvantage than a boxer.
Inoki: That's true. But
I think that, whether you win or lose, the important thing is to accept
the challenge and go for it.
Ray: I agree.
Both of us fought as warriors, with pride, so we were appreciated
as something more than mere athletes.
Inoki: Hmmm. When I
watched your fights, I saw a certain great beauty. Your technicality, it
had an aspect of the martial arts in it which I admired. It was the
"art of fighting". Other fighters didn't have that [to the
same degree?] Because there are a lot of strong fighters. But
among those strong fighters, there are some who can show that.
Ray: Ever since I was a
young kid, I've been a fan of Bruce Lee. I felt a strong attraction for
the Asian martial arts. Because of that, when I was competing as a
boxer, I fought with "heart" and " mentality" and
Inoki: When I'm
asked for an autograph, I write my favorite expression, 闘魂,
(toukon) which has the meaning "fuaiteingu supiritto"
[fighting spirit]. That is the most important thing, I think.
Ray: I think that's
great, writing "fighting spirit" on an autograph pad [the
Japanese fans collect autographs on a special kind of paper designed for
autographs, called " shikishi", which are then usually
mounted and hung on a wall]. Fighting spirit isn't only necessary for
fighting in a ring, but also for taking care of your family. You have to
fight everyday just to make a living. When you fight [with spirit] you
get everyone's respect. Fighting spirit is everything in life.
If you wouldn't mind,
Mr. Inoki, please write 闘魂 (toukon)
this autograph pad for me.
Inoki: Well, let's
Inoki: Let's get
together again in Japan, shall we?
(c) 2001, Roberto
Pedreira. All rights reserved.
slightly August 5, 2016.
Interested in Boxing? Check out
Kenny, Sean, Ned,
Inoki's brother in Rio.