Undefeated boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. surprised the sports world late Sunday (USA time) with a press conference announcing a fight with Japan’s kickboxing wunderkind Tenshin Nasukawa. The bout is scheduled for December 31, New Years Eve, at RIZIN 14 at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to go outside the U.S. and go into another arena and display my talent as a professional, because I did it as an amateur,” Mayweather said. “Now it’s different as a professional. It’s great. I want to say congratulations to Tenshin and Rizin and just everybody for backing this event.”
Nasukawa was present at the strange presser, where it was revealed that rules for the match have yet to be decided. The 20-year-old Japanese sensation is a flawless 27-0 as a professional kickboxer, with 21 of his victories coming by way of knockout. Highlights of his resume include defeats of Amnat Ruenroeng, Yamato Fujita, Yusaku Nakamura, Rodtang Jitmuangnon and most recently, fellow Japanese star Kyoji Horiguchi. Nasukawa has also competed four times in mixed martial arts, winning two of those bouts by knockout, one by submission, and one by decision.
In September, Mayweather had floated the possibility of such a fight in Tokyo, as a tune up before engaging in a rematch with Philippine boxing champion Manny Pacquiao. Very few took the American pugilist seriously. Nasukawa has never competed as a professional boxer.
The battle is reminiscent of Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki held at the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo on June 26, 1976, which ended in a much-debated draw.
Mayweather vs. Tenshin is expected to be mostly a boxing match without headgear and no large gloves, conducted at open weight. To date, the Japanese star has fought at around 120 pounds or so, while the American is often over 140 pounds.
Floyd “Money” Mayweather is arguably the greatest boxer of all time. He last fought in August of 2017, when he improved to 50-0 with a 10th-round TKO of Conor McGregor in a similar crossover fight. Other highlights of his incredible record include victories over Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, Victor Ortiz, Juan Manuel Márquez, Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya, Zab Judah and Arturo Gatti.