So that fight between Floyd Mayweather and Japanese kickboxing phenom Tenshin Nasukawa, set to headline a major MMA event on New Year’s Eve at a 37,000-seat arena near Tokyo? Well, it’s possible that the fight’s promoters were getting a wee bit ahead of themselves.
For instance, they don’t seem to have gotten Mayweather completely on board with the idea, to judge from his Instagram post Wednesday. The 41-year-old boxer said that he “never agreed to an official bout” and instead was under the impression that he was going to participate in an “exhibition” match in front of a “small group of wealthy spectators.”
Mayweather appeared at a Tokyo news conference Monday with Nasukawa, ostensibly to promote the fight, but he said Wednesday that when he arrived at the media session, he and his team were “completely derailed by the new direction this event was going,” adding that they “should have put a stop to it immediately.” He said he had been led to believe that he would be part of a “special bout” that was “purely for entertainment purposes with no intentions of being represented as an official fight card nor televised worldwide.”
“I want to sincerely apologize to my fans for the very misleading information that was announced during this press conference,” Mayweather said in his post, “and I can assure you that I too was completely blindsided by the arrangements that were being made without my consent nor approval.”
For his part, Nasukawa had furthered the impression that the fight would be more or less “official.” In a Twitter post aimed at Conor McGregor’s profane, heckling response to the news conference, Nasukawa referred to the Irish MMA star’s 2017 loss to Mayweather in a boxing match by saying, “I promise to avenge your loss, so please watch my fight.”
A news release issued Monday by Rizin, the MMA company staging the fight, said (via MMA Mania) that Mayweather was set to take on Nasukawa at its Dec. 31 event at Saitama Super Arena. According to the company, the only major issues for the fight were related to its format, leaving many observers suspecting that it would be boxing-only but intrigued with the possibility that at least some MMA rules might be in place.
“As far as the weight class and the rules, we’ll talk about that and we’ll get that situated within the next couple of weeks,” Mayweather said at the news conference (via Yahoo Sports). “This particular bout is a special bout as far as we’re giving the people something they’ve never seen before. The world has never seen Mayweather compete live in Tokyo."
The undefeated boxer, who has a 50-0 record (Nasukawa is 27-0 in kickboxing, 4-0 in MMA matches), also said Monday that he was eager to bolster his partnership with Rizin while growing his brand in Japan. “I would love to continue to work with Rizin because Rizin is an unbelievable company,” he said, “and my company, we’ve been making some huge fights happen in the U.S., but we look forward to taking the Mayweather Promotions banner and the TMT banner worldwide.”
In his post Wednesday, Mayweather pointed to an apparent disconnect between what he was told by Brent Johnson, a Los Angeles-based entertainment executive who reportedly helped Rizin officials conceive of the match, and what the Japanese company was touting at the news conference. Mayweather claimed that he didn’t contradict them at the time because he was “hesitant to create a huge disturbance by combating what was being said.”
That doesn’t necessarily sound like the Mayweather that fight fans have seen — and heard — for the past two decades, he has been far from a shrinking violet at media events and on other occasions. It’s possible that he was a bit cowed by being on foreign soil with unfamiliar promotional partners, but in any event, it remains to be seen if some version of the fight moves forward.
There have been reports of Mayweather’s interest in possible rematches with McGregor and/or Manny Pacquiao, but the last line in his Instagram post appeared to be intended to give the impression that his career as a fighter in officially sanctioned bouts that would count toward his record was over, even if his dedication to raking in as much revenue as possible was very much in full swing. “I am a retired boxer that earns an unprecedented amount of money, globally, for appearances, speaking engagements and occasional small exhibitions,” he said.
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