20-year-old Japanese kickboxing wunderkind Tenshin Nasukawa is currently gearing up for the experience of a lifetime: a three-round exhibition boxing match with undefeated legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. The bout will top the stacked RIZIN 14 card, which goes down inside the hallowed Saitaima Super Arena, just outside Tokyo, Japan, on New Years Eve.
Given that Tenshin Nasukawa and Floyd Mayweather come from two different sports — one that allows kicks, one that doesn’t — it should come as no surprise that the negotiations for this anticipated exhibition match were difficult. The two parties had to agree on a rule-set that would satisfy Mayweather, but also maintain some level of competitive legitimacy.
While the negotiations for this bout were complicated, Nasukawa approached them with an openminded and pragmatic attitude. He of course had his hopes with respect to the bout’s rule-set, but understood that the superstar Mayweather would probably get his way regardless.
“I don’t think the negotiations were smooth,” Tenshin Nasukawa told BJPENN.com this week. “I was just told by my father and coach, and really wasn’t too particular to begin with. I knew that even if I was particular, it would have gone his way anyway.”
In the end, the parties involved in this exhibition bout agreed on a rule-set that forbids kicks — effectively depriving Nasukawa of his most dangerous weapon — as well as other maneuvers like spinning back-fists. The bout’s rather restrictive rule-set does allow for a knockout, but a knockout will not result in a loss being tacked onto either fighter’s record.
While a knockout would certainly serve to legitimize this contest, Nasukawa says he feels no extra pressure to author a finish. His main priority is learning as much as he can from his brief time between the ropes with Floyd Mayweather. He knows how lucky he is to be sharing the the ring with a pugilist of the America’s caliber, especially at just 20 years old.
“I don’t feel any pressure about [getting a knockout],” Nasukawa said. “I hope to absorb, and learn many things from him during the 9 minutes I am provided with.
“I’m very excited,” he added. “He’s a true legend and no Japanese fighter has had a chance to face him. I feel very fortunate to be able to face him at this age.”
Tenshin Nasukawa will be confronted by many challenges over the course of his nine-minute meeting with Mayweather. It’s arguable that the greatest of those challenges will be finding his range against a much larger opponent under an unfamiliar ruleset.
As a kickboxer and occasional mixed martial artist, Nasukawa is used to fighting at a much greater range than the boxer Mayweather, as he has to worry about being kicked. He’ll also be at a noteworthy reach disadvantage against the American legend. Yet the Japanese striking sensation is undaunted by these variables.
“I don’t think it will be a disadvantage,” Nasukawa said of fighting at boxing range. “I think it will be an advantage. I will be further away, MMA fighters are even more far away. I have never felt it as a disadvantage.
“The size difference is inevitable, but I will be quicker, and I plan to utilize that aspect,” he added.
However the bout unfolds, Tenshin Nasukawa is confident he can achieve better results than Conor McGregor did in his blockbuster 2017 boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.
“Of course,” he said confidently. “I will prove that in the fight.”
Nasukawa is hopeful that, by performing well against the legendary Floyd Mayweather, he can introduce himself to a large, international audience. He also hopes that a strong performance will remind viewers that Japan is still home to some of the most fearsome fighters on the planet.
“I think it means everything that people will get to know who I am and get to know that the Japanese still have tough fighters,” he said. “Of course watching Mayweather is always something, but watching how lighter guys fight is something I really want people to look for, and I want them to see my way of life.”
Head back to BJPenn.com on December 31 for full results of this compelling Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Floyd Mayweather exhibition bout.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 12/27/2018.