One of the weirder chapters of Muhammad Ali’s career was his embarrassing 1976 bout against Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki.
A 2009 retrospective on this blemish on the champ’s ring record describes what happened when the bell clanged to start the festivities:
Before the ringing had stopped, Inoki had sprinted the 16-feet gap between the two men, and thrown himself feet first at Ali in a deranged two-footed tackle. Ali sidestepped, Inoki missed. Before the two could square up, Inoki threw another lunging kick, missed again, and landed flat on his back.
And then things started to get really silly.
Inoki didn’t get up. He lay on his back at Ali’s feet and refused to stand.
As Ali circled him warily Inoki scooted around on his behind, like a hound trying to scratch its ass on the carpet. Occasionally he would kick viciously upwards at Ali’s knees. He stayed like this for all but the first 14 seconds of the three-minute round.
That was the template for the entire match, though at one point Inoki managed to drag Ali to the canvas and sit on his head. For his part, Ali threw six punches. In 15 rounds. The event was scored a draw.
Inoki’s reputation soared from his non-loss. Ali’s suffered from his participation in a farce. He also sustained significant leg injuries that some say hampered him in later fights.
I hadn’t thought of this piece of sports entertainment in a long time. But it came to mind last night watching two opponents sharing the same stage but playing completely different games — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
It’s not a perfect analogy. Hillary Clinton ain’t “The Greatest.” She’s not known for her jab. It’s Trump, not Clinton, who’s renowned for his lip and has shocked the world by becoming the Republican presidential nominee and pulling himself into a position to win the election just a few weeks from now.
But in the debate, we got to see Clinton operating, for better or worse, by the rules of conventional politics. She spent time preparing. She maintained her composure when things got heated. She made a point of appearing presidential in the traditional sense.
Trump played a different game altogether, the one that got him the nomination. He bluffed, he bragged, he interrupted, he contradicted, and he interrupted again. His version of looking presidential was to cite his income for last year — a figure he put at $694 million — as “the kind of thinking that our country needs.”
You might judge who managed to stay on their feet for this round of the Clinton-Trump match and who was scrabbling around on their back kicking at their opponent’s legs by the candidates’ post-event reactions. Or one reaction, anyway:
Video: @realDonaldTrump says Holt did "fine job," claims his mic was "defective" pic.twitter.com/dLpPgv55SU
— Mosheh Oinounou (@Mosheh) September 27, 2016