You can accuse Floyd Mayweather of being many things, but predictable isn’t one of them. The undefeated boxing legend has shocked the fighting world by announcing that his next opponent will be Japanese kickboxing sensation Tenshin Nasukawa at Rizin 14 in Saitama on New Year’s Eve.
The announcement catapulted the relatively unknown 20-year-old onto the international stage, but just who is Nasukawa and how much of a threat does he pose to Mayweather?
The Independent takes a closer look at the latest man hoping to strike the first blemish on Mayweather’s undefeated professional record:
He's a fighting prodigy with knockout power
Nasukawa may be young enough to be Mayweather’s son, but he’s been fighting for a very long time. His father enrolled him in a karate class at the age of five to instil discipline into him. He then took up kickboxing while still in elementary school and was a veteran of more than 100 bouts by the time he turned professional at the age of 18, amassing a formidable amateur record of 99-5.
In addition to his karate skills, Nasukawa also possesses a deep understanding of Muay Thai as a result of training and fighting in Thailand from a young age. His mastery and blend of the disciplines has forged him into a very complete and dangerous fighter, capable of defending himself against most forms of attack and countering with devastating power and precision.
Spectacular knockout victories over former IBF world boxing champion Amnat Ruenroeng and Lumpinee Stadium Muay Thai champion Wanchalong while still a teenager brought him to the attention of the wider fighting public, and he has since become the face of the ‘Rizin Fighting Federation’ thanks to his skill, charisma in the ring and aggressive style.
His pro kickboxing record currently stands at 27-0, with 23 knockouts. He is 4-0 in MMA. All of his professional fights have been staged in Japan, and he primarily fights out of Tokyo.
He's quite a bit smaller than Mayweather...
Standing almost three inches shorter than Mayweather at just 5ft 4in, Nasukawa - who fights in a southpaw stance - is classed in kickboxing circles as a bantamweight (he is ranked No.8 in the world by combatpress.com).
Mayweather’s most recent fights have come at welterweight and he has never fought lower than super featherweight, meaning that as things stand Nasukawa will be giving up around 11kg to his more experienced opponent.
He believes that aliens exist
Nasukawa is an interesting character. Asked in an interview with mixedmartialarts.com’s ‘The Underground’ last year if he believes there is life on other planets, he replied: “There is definitely life outside of Earth for sure. I believe they were here before us.”
He also picked a cockroach as the animal he would most like to be because “their ability to survive is extremely high” and, when asked to reveal something about him that people would never guess, he didn’t disappoint: “I am frightened easily.”
He's fully prepared to box Mayweather
The precise rules of the fight on New Year’s Eve are yet to be disclosed and will, of course, be crucial to determining the winner. But if Nasukawa is limited to throwing punches rather than kicks against Mayweather, he is confident of succeeding where so many elite boxers have failed before him and puncturing the American’s seemingly impenetrable guard with damaging blows.
“It was a surprise offer but I accepted without hesitation,” he said at a press conference to announce the fight. “It's the biggest moment in my life and I want to be the man who changes history. I'll do that with these fists, with one punch – just watch.”
His younger sister is a kickboxer too... and she's good
Tenshin Nakusawa might not even be the meanest fighter in his family. His younger sister, 16-year-old Riri, is also a highly-rated young kickboxer who won her first professional bout against an 18-year-old opponent in June, having gone 30-3 in her amateur career. She fights next at Rise 129 on 11 November.
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