Why Muhammad Ali, 'the greatest' boxer, is being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame

Muhammad Ali, Liberace and Hulk Hogan pose together at Madison Square Garden
Muhammad Ali, left, Liberace and Hulk Hogan pose for photos ahead of Wrestlemania I on March 29, 1985, at Madison Square Garden. Ali is being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame later this year. (Marty Lederhandler / Associated Press)

A former president.

A former governor.

A captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

A fool pitier.

A baseball legend who is ineligible for that sport's Hall of Fame.

A legendary boxer will soon join the list of celebrity inductees into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, as the late Muhammad Ali has been named as a member of the organization's class of 2024.

"Many claim to be great, but only one man is 'The Greatest,'" retired wrestler and current WWE chief content officer Triple H wrote Monday on X. "Muhammad Ali transcended sport to become a global icon who captivated and impacted the world like no other. @WWE is honored to induct 'The Greatest' Muhammad Ali into the #WWEHOF."

Read more: The life and career of boxer Muhammad Ali

Ali will be inducted by his widow, Lonnie Ali, in a ceremony April 5 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Other members of the Hall of Fame's class of 2024 that will be honored during WrestleMania XL weekend include Paul Heyman, Bull Nakano and the U.S. Express (Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham). A spokesman for WWE told The Times that more names will be announced at a later date.

Ali is considered by many to be the greatest boxer of all time, having taken part in such historic bouts as the "Fight of the Century" and the "Thrilla in Manila" against Joe Frazier and the "Rumble in the Jungle" against George Foreman.

He also took part in the "War of the Worlds," an infamous 1976 exhibition match against Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki at the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo.

Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki slide kicks the back of Muhammad Ali's leg during their boxing-wrestling bout.
Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki landed 64 kicks to Muhammad Ali's five punches during their exhibition fight June 26, 1976, in Tokyo. The bout was declared a draw by the judges. (Associated Press)

Ali was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world at the time, but it wasn't exactly a boxing match. It wasn't really wrestling either, but instead a hybrid of special rules that resembled those of today's mixed martial arts.

Inoki spent most of the bout slide-kicking Ali's legs,which prevented the U.S. boxer from landing many punches. Inoki landed a total of 64 kicks and Ali landed just five punches, but the match was declared a draw by the judges.

Ali's left leg was bloody and swollen from all the abuse it had taken. In a 2009 interview with the Guardian, the fight's promoter, Bob Arum, said Ali almost had to have the limb amputated.

Read more: The Japanese pro wrestler who almost got Muhammad Ali's leg amputated

The exhibition was not well received — fans threw garbage into the ring in response to what they perceived as a lackluster fight — but a surprising friendship was born out of it. About a year after the match, Ali surprised Inoki by inviting the Japanese wrestler to his wedding party, which was a small gathering of friends.

Ali also was featured as the guest of honor when Inoki fought Ric Flair during a 1996 pay-per-view event in North Korea. Two years later, Ali sat ringside for Inoki's final fight and presented him with flowers in the ring afterward.

Inoki, who was also a politician in Japan, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010. He died in 2022 at 79.

Ali also was a part of professional wrestling history at the inaugural WrestleMania event in 1985, serving as a special guest referee for the main event that pitted the team of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff.

Guest referee Muhammad Ali tries to prevent "Rowdy" Roddy Piper from entering the ring illegally at Wrestlemania.
Guest referee Muhammad Ali tries to prevent "Rowdy" Roddy Piper from entering the ring illegally during the inaugural WrestleMania on March 31, 1985, at Madison Square Garden. (Ray Stubblebine / Associated Press)

"Ali’s defining moment in the match came when he punched Piper with his signature right hand — a move that restored order to the bout," WWE said in a news release Monday.

Hogan, Piper and Orndorff were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005. Mr. T was a celebrity inductee in 2014.

Past celebrity inductees include Pete Rose, William "the Refrigerator" Perry, Bob Uecker, Drew Carey, Mike Tyson, Donald Trump, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Snoop Dogg, Kid Rock, William Shatner, Ozzy Osborne and Andy Kaufman.

Sign up for the L.A. Times SoCal high school sports newsletter to get scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.