Floyd Mayweather v Tenshin Nasukawa ‘fake’? Rigged or not, farcical fight spits in face of fans

  • Fans question humiliating TKO victory over Japanese kick-boxer
  • ‘Money’ continues to hurt the sport’s reputation with another easy pay day
Topic | Floyd Mayweather

Nick Atkin



Floyd Mayweather smiles after knocking down Tenshin Nasukawa in the first round at Rizin 14. Photo: Rizin Fighting Federation/Handout via Reuters

In less than two and a half minutes – 139 seconds, to be precise – it was all over between Floyd Mayweather and Tenshin Nasukawa.

The American boxer, 41, floored the Japanese kick-boxer three times before the 20-year-old’s corner threw in the towel at the Saitama Super Arena on New Year’s Eve.

With each knockdown, Nasukawa stumbled around the ring comically like something out of a WWE show, bouncing off the ropes like a rag doll.

“This guy was selling like he’s the love child of Shawn Michaels and Dolph Ziggler,” wrote one observer on Twitter, referencing two professional wrestlers who are known for flopping about the ring with exaggerated flair.

Conor McGregor mocks Floyd Mayweather’s knockout of Tenshin Nasukawa at Rizin 14

Nasukawa cried as the fight was called off in the first round, with Mayweather – who weighed in four kilograms heavier for the fight – performing an impromptu dance in the middle of the ring.

And so, fresh from coming out of his first retirement to beat UFC star Conor McGregor (professional boxing record 0-1) in August 2017, Mayweather landed a fresh body blow to boxing’s legitimacy with another easy pay day.

As usual, he made sure to flaunt his winnings, posting videos on Instagram of huge bundles of Japanese Yen strewn all over the inside of his luxury car.

Floyd Mayweather shows off his winnings on his Instagram story. Photo: Instagram

But given the reaction, seemingly not many had predicted such a mismatch against a prospect who is 4-0 in MMA and 27-0 in kick-boxing.

“Fake as hell” wrote several angry users on social media.

Manny Pacquiao rips Floyd Mayweather’s win over Tenshin Nasukawa

“That kid was diving all over the place,” said another on Twitter. “Barely got hit, Mayweather hasn’t had that sort of power in about 20 years and each punch knocked him into next week.”

Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald weighed in: “From my perspective it looked very fake. So I’m a bit surprised seeing professional fighters reacting to it as if it were real.”

Floyd Mayweather throws another punch at Tenshin Nasukawa. Photo: EPA

While Mayweather earned US$9 million for the fight, his opponent’s slice of the pie has not been made public.

“When I first got the offer I took it in a flash,” wrote an apologetic Nasukawa on Instagram. “I thought this was an opportunity of a lifetime, and although there were significant differences in accomplishments and weight classes, I felt that I must not run and take on the challenge.

“I got finished, but I have no regrets. I am disappointed at myself since I thought I could have done better. But I will face the facts and will continue to take on any challenge.

“I learned that I didn’t work hard enough to earn this opportunity, and I will use this defeat to improve myself and move forward this year.”

Easy Money as Mayweather pounds Nasukawa in first-round TKO victory

Tenshin Nasukawa gets a standing eight count from referee. Photo: Rizin Fighting Federation/AFP

After making a song and dance at a press conference when the bout was announced in November, Mayweather suddenly scrapped the plan with an Instagram post claiming he had been “misled” by promoters.

No rule set had yet been announced, with “Money” claiming Rizin had gone back on their original agreement for a three-round exhibition.

Unsurprisingly to all, further negotiations were successful and Mayweather eventually got his way – he is the master of ensuring he cannot fail, but he has earned the right to call all the shots.

“Despite all the things that happened leading up to the fight, I came to realise how truly great Mayweather was,” Nasukawa added. “I was the one underestimating him. I promise to make it to that level!”

Floyd Mayweather waves to fans with Japanese kick-boxer Tenshin Nasukawa left in tears. Photo EPA

Despite the conspiracy theories, it would be strange for Rizin – the Japanese promotion that staged the fight – to want to ruin their biggest rising star’s reputation by demanding he lose in such embarrassing fashion.

Logic dictates that if Nasukawa was going to throw the fight, Rizin would have at least demanded he put in a good showing before losing towards the end of the three-round exhibition.

Maybe just facing the legendary Mayweather, who went 50-0 before “retiring” again in 2017, is enough of a rub for Nasukawa to be seen as a potential superstar in the eyes of the millions watching on television in Japan.

Equally, it’s not hard to believe that Mayweather simply outclassed Nasukawa – he is arguably the greatest boxer of all time.

Tenshin Nasukawa lies on the mat after being knocked down by Floyd Mayweather. Photo: AP

Whatever you believe, the whole thing just spit in the face of fight fans, giving a timely reminder as to why weight classes exist in combat sports – if not just for the fighters’ safety, they also ensure a fairer playing field.

No commission would have licensed that fight in the US, but Japan isn’t so stringent. Just look at the presence on the Rizin 14 undercard of Gabi Garcia.

The powerhouse Brazilian – who was stripped of her 2013 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world championship title after testing positive for fertility drug clomiphene – missed weight by an astonishing 12.2 kilograms for her fight at the 2017 Rizin New Year’s Eve extravaganza against 53-year-old Shinobu Kandori.

After Garcia submitted Barbara Nepomuceno on Monday night, Kandori jumped into the ring in more farcical scenes to confront Garcia.

Freak show fights are all well and good, but if fans can no longer tell what is real and what is fake, then we really might as well just be watching WWE, because at least they throw in some soap opera storylines to boot.

Floyd Mayweather
Martial arts
Nick is a production editor on the South China Morning Post's sport desk. He was previously a sports writer for ESPN, and can be found on most days trying to think of ways he can pretend professional wrestling is a sport so that he can write about it.
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