One of the more colorful realizations of the age-old striking versus grappling rivalry came in 1976, in a fight billed as boxing versus professional wrestling. Unlike similar matches throughout history, however, this event featured the heavyweight world champion, Muhammad Ali, and the most popular Japanese professional wrestler of the day, Antonio Inoki.
Investigating this event through the lens of applied linguistic anthropology reveals much about the contextual social dynamics at play. Sources including newspaper reports, interviews with witnesses and those involved, and private correspondence are considered as they unveil the complicated truth behind Ali vs. Inoki, the fight that marked a turning point in the career of history’s most celebrated boxing champion. Analysis reveals that the event was a public failure because of communication breakdown on myriad fronts. Consequently, I argue that the fight itself should be viewed as a robust form of communication in which the nuances of dialect are at play.