Floyd Mayweather came out of retirement last year to take on UFC superstar Conor McGregor in a boxing match last year as he extended his perfect professional record to 50-0.
But that was supposed to be it, wasn’t it?
Apparently not, as “Money” Mayweather is coming back again, and he’s found a completely different challenge to get his teeth into.
Mayweather has agreed to take on 20-year-old Japanese kickboxing superstar Tenshin Nasugawa in the main event of Japanese MMA promotion Rizin’s New Year’s Eve spectacular, Rizin 14, at the Saitama Super Arena.
But right now, just under two months away from the contest, there are more questions than answers about their announced match-up.
What rules will they compete under?
It sounds daft, but even though it was formally announced that Mayweather and Tenshin will face off on New Year’s Eve, the specific rules of the contest haven’t yet been agreed upon.
Tenshin is an undefeated two-division kickboxing world champion with an unbeaten record in mixed martial arts. Mayweather, of course, is virtually untouchable inside the boxing ring.
Boxing rules would hand Mayweather all the aces, while kickboxing rules would see Floyd exposed to weapons he’s never had to face before in his career – kicks.
As well as the options of boxing and kickboxing rules, there is also the possibility of a hybrid ruleset that may allow for kicks below the waist, or no kicks, but allowing elbows etc. Rules surrounding what is and isn’t allowed in the clinch will also be important, too.
Whatever ruleset is agreed upon, one man will have the distinct advantage over the other.
What weight class will they compete under?
This is where the biggest discrepancy is simply unavoidable. Mayweather, quite simply, is the bigger man. The boxing ace hasn’t competed under the 147 welterweight boxing limit since his 2005 fight with Arturo Gatti, when he weighed 140lbs, so asking Floyd to cut down to anything below 145lbs would be a tough ask for the 41-year-old.
Tenshin, however, has competed between 121lbs and 126lbs throughout his career, which suggests that Mayweather could enjoy a weight advantage of anything up to 25lbs when the pair meet.
To give you some perspective, if Mayweather fought someone 25lbs heavier than him in the boxing ring, he’d be competing against a light-heavyweight.
Why is Floyd fighting in Japan?
Unlike the McGregor fight, which was in effect a licence to print dollar bills, this matchup seems to be rather more strategic than a pure cash grab.
Rizin’s financial footing certainly doesn’t seem to be solid enough to fork out the sort of money you’d expect Mayweather to demand, so there could be something else on the table for Floyd here.
Part-ownership in the promotion would seem to be the most likely incentive for Mayweather – and would also act as a major promotional benefit for Rizin.
With Mayweather on board, the door could be open for Rizin to host special one-off events in the States, and offer Floyd another potential revenue stream in his retirement – or even an environment where he can still compete under strictly-controlled circumstances that play to his advantages.
What do we know about Tenshin?
The internet is now awash with “things you need to know” pieces about the Japanese kickboxing ace, with many of them highlighting his comment that he believes in life on other planets.
But if we’re talking about what’s actually relevant to the contest, the Japanese star has plenty of skills that could make a contest with Floyd watchable – and even competitive, depending on the ruleset.
His kickboxing record is phenomenal: 27 bouts, 27 wins, 20 knockouts. In his latest outing for Rizin he defeated Japanese MMA star and Rizin bantamweight MMA champion Kyoji Horiguchi by decision under kickboxing rules, and he also holds a victory over Muay Thai superstar Rodtang Jitmuangnon.
For all of his kickboxing brilliance, he has never competed in a professional boxing contest, and will concede height, weight and reach to Mayweather, who is more than twice his age.
Under kickboxing rules, he’d demolish Floyd, but Mayweather’s not daft enough to agree to that. Nonetheless, the confident 20-year-old says he’ll beat Mayweather anyway.
What’s likely to happen?
The prospect of Mayweather actually agreeing to face an undefeated 27-0 kickboxing world champion under kickboxing rules is not just unthinkable – it’s borderline impossible. He has demonstrated his ability to steer clear of risk and compete on his terms throughout the back end of his career, and I’d expect nothing different here.
Even though the rules aren’t yet agreed upon, you can already bet on the contest, with Floyd set as the 2/9 favourite and Tenshin an 11/4 underdog.
Expect those odds to lengthen if boxing rules are confirmed, or switch completely if Rizin springs a shock and announces it as a kickboxing contest.
Don’t rule out the possibility of it not happening, too. If Floyd doesn’t like the ruleset, he’ll walk away. Rizin have announced him, and that means they have to deliver. It means Floyd has all the leverage in the rules negotiations, and he’ll almost certainly get what he wants.
That means anything other than an exhibition boxing match (possibly over a shorter duration) would be a huge surprise. I can’t see him allowing Tenshin to use his kicks, though the possibility of allowing selected non-boxing techniques such as Superman punches and spinning backfists could be allowed by way of a concession.
Don’t expect them to be wearing anything other than big boxing gloves, too. Fighting in MMA gloves presents an additional risk Mayweather doesn’t need to agree to.
Therefore, we should expect to see a 50-0 boxing legend taking on a young kickboxing ace who is undersized and has zero professional boxing matches on his record.
And he’ll almost certainly do them under the Queensberry rules, or a ruleset VERY similar. In short, we should expect to see another mismatch.
One thing we have already seen, however, is Mayweather’s ability to be a chameleon and adapt his promotional persona to fit the audience. For the bout with McGregor in Vegas, we saw gaudy, over-the-top, at-times abusive trash talk and taunting. But we almost certainly won’t see a hint of that over in Japan, where the martial arts culture is one of respect.
Mayweather is the master of playing with house money and coming away a winner.
Expect him to build up his opponent, dictate the rules of the bout to minimise risk and suit his skills, then go out and defeat his young opponent, praising him to the hilt as he makes his way back to his private jet to Vegas.
Will we be watching?
The clash of styles will be interesting and, with a host of other exciting bouts likely to be added, plus Rizin’s old-school PRIDE Fighting Championships-style presentation, it’ll definitely be worth watching. If you haven’t seen one of the big Japanese shows, then you’re in for a treat.
And if Rizin can put together an entrance like this for women’s atomweight Andy Nguyen, just imagine what Mayweather could walk out to on New Year’s Eve…