Tenshin Nasukawa showed up for a fight, and Floyd Mayweather showed up for an exhibition match at RIZIN 14.
Ironically, they both got exactly what they wanted at the featured special rules boxing match in Japan on New Year’s Eve. Mayweather left without a scratch after a glorified celebrity appearance, and Nasukawa tasted the pain and heartache of defeat after a real fight with the best boxer on the planet.
There is no pulling back the curtains after the 20-year-old kickboxing phenom was bullied and pummeled before ultimately being TKO’d in the first round. Not all losses need to be written on paper as proof of existence.
What should be written, however, is how Mayweather hoodwinked RIZIN by delivering an all-time great plot twist to one of 2018’s most intriguing stories. For a reported $9 million, he agreed to a three, three-minute round exhibition boxing match against Japan’s most notorious up-and-coming combat sports star.
Everything appeared to line up in RIZIN’s favor on the surface. The shortened time limit would present a unique opportunity for the knockout artist in Nasukawa to blitz Mayweather without fear of running out of gas under traditional boxing rules. The organization also leaned on the fact that Mayweather was notorious for being a slow starter, which might have opened the door for Nasukawa to have a few shining moments. All it took was a couple decent rounds from the Japanese star to win the people’s decision.
The 41-year-old Mayweather seemed ripe for the picking.
He looked like he got off the couch on Saturday, flew to Japan on Sunday and stepped into the ring to fight Nasukawa on Monday. This clearly wasn’t even close to the peak fitness we’re accustomed to seeing from the former boxing world champion. As Nasukawa stood as still as a stone-faced killer, Mayweather nonchalantly walked around the ring waving at fans, while taking breaks in between to laugh and chat up his entourage.
It wasn’t a kickboxing match, but Nasukawa also wasn’t a novice fighter, either. He had amassed a 28-0 professional kickboxing record with 22 knockouts. This was clearly a dangerous man standing a few feet away, and Mayweather did little more than laugh and smile in his direction.
It was in that moment that it became evident that Mayweather pulled off the heist of the century. He essentially talked RIZIN into serving up their prized star on a silver platter for another huge payday. Sure, the fight took place in Japan under the RIZIN banner, but Mayweather dictated the rules and elements of the fight—all the way down to having the referee and announcer of his choosing.
That smile on his face never let up as he stalked Nasukawa relentlessly, willingly eating whatever was thrown at him. The fight wasn’t so much about sweet Science as it was physical dominance. Mayweather kept his guard up, cut off the ring and forced the smaller Nasukawa to fight in a phone booth. The punches that led to knockdowns were mostly glancing—one in particular was a simple lead check hook that sent Nasukawa falling to the canvas.
Another lead left hook followed by a right hand put Nasukawa on the ground a third time. As the prideful young fighter struggled to find his footing for a standing eight count, his corner did the right thing and threw in the towel to signal an end to the circus.
Then the juxtaposition between two completely different stories took center stage.
Nasukawa, the dreamer with a bright future, broke down emotionally after giving his all to win the exhibition match and catapult his name to the top of the combat sports world. Then there was Mayweather, the boxing phenom/businessman, calmly untying and removing his gloves as if they were the cufflinks of a three-piece suit.
He got the fight he wanted for $64,285.71 a second in the ring, while also maintaining his relevance in the fight business. RIZIN basically paid him to use their stage and resources to promote himself.
The greatest of all time argument will always be a moot point in regards to Mayweather, but no one can ever question his business acumen. He is second to none at the negotiating table—the best ever at fine-tuning the important details before putting pen to paper.
RIZIN learned the hard way for failing to see past that efficacious smirk. Now, they’ll be forced to watch from below as Floyd Mayweather boards his getaway flight back to the United States $9 million richer.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of BJPENN.COM or its affiliates.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 1/1/2019.