Floyd Mayweather Jr. made a surprise appearance in Tokyo on Sunday night, where it was announced that the undefeated boxing megastar would end his retirement and take on Tenshin Nasukawa in a modified rules bout that will serve as the main event of Rizin 14 at Saitama Super Arena on New Year’s Eve.
While the news sent shockwaves through the combat sports world, casual fans familiar with Mayweather and curious to know his next move were left scrambling to figure out who the stylishly dressed youngster sitting opposite the 50-0 pugilist was and what he would have to offer in a bout against the boxing legend.
Nasukawa is a 20-year-old rising star in the combat sports world.
An undefeated kickboxer with 20 knockouts in 27 appearances, the karate stylist from Chiba Prefecture made his mixed martial arts debut in December 2016, competing under the Rizin Fighting Federation banner, defeating Nikita Sapun in less than three minutes. He has since earned three more victories to push his MMA record to 4-0 overall with three finishes and is regarded by many as one of the most exciting prospects in the sport.
Anyone facing Mayweather is going to be hit with a storm of media attention and torrent of trash talk in the buildup to the fight. Some, like Conor McGregor, choose to steer into the chaos and try to trade barbs with the verbal gunslinger from Las Vegas, cranking the promotional efforts up to 11 and delivering innumerable re-playable moments, including more than a few cringeworthy exchanges.
Others get swallowed up in the crush of publicity, unable to contend with the increased focus and attention combined with the non-stop barrage of barbs, insults and antagonizing being directed their way.
To his credit, Nasuwaka seemed to take the surprise announcement in stride and may be uniquely qualified to deal with Mayweather’s signature brand of showmanship and self-promotion in the build-up to this encounter.
Nasuwaka has been competing at an elite level since he was in high school and seemed completely unfazed by the attention this massive announcement generated. While Mayweather was Mayweather, Nasuwaka sat on the dais, kept his answers concise and showed the calm demeanor that you would expect from a young talent who has been in the spotlight since he was 18- years-old.
While his buttoned-down presence at the press event was certainly noteworthy, it’s what he does in the ring that caused combat sports fans worldwide to squeal with excitement when news of this bout flashed across their timelines.
Nasuwaka’s inventive brand of striking has made him a must-watch attraction for those who follow the sport:
Tenshin is an ALIEN pic.twitter.com/jjgsh6Hp4Q
— Jolassanda (@Jolassanda) May 6, 2018
While he hasn’t competed in an MMA bout since October 2017, the 20-year-old rising star has remained active on the kickboxing front, registering four wins in 2018 already, including the knockout of Yusaku Nakamura above and a unanimous decision victory over Rizin FF bantamweight champion Kyoji Horiguchi.
Tenshin Nasukawa jumps into hyperdrive to close R2 #RIZIN13 @FITETV #RIZINFF pic.twitter.com/iNLhofitXL
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) September 30, 2018
Although the rules for the bout are yet to be determined and the likelihood of Mayweather agreeing to any contest that involves kicks is infinitesimal, meaning it will likely be a straight up boxing match, Nasuwaka didn’t seem to have any issues agreeing to the contest without knowing the particulars and it’s part of why this is such a tremendous coup for Rizin FF.
By bringing in Mayweather, a human lightning rod and undeniable great in the ring, the Japanese promotion has forced its way into the mainstream media with its emerging superstar front and center.
Nasuwaka has become a global curiosity simply by being attached to a fight with Mayweather and as more and more people dig into his exploits in the ring, they’re going to discover what hardcore MMA fans and kickboxing fanatics already know: the undefeated 20-year-old has superstar potential and this should be the event that propels him to incredible new heights of popularity.
The young Japanese fighter is an incredible talent and that should be on display throughout the promotion of this unexpected, but now highly- anticipated clash on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.