MATSUDO, Japan (AP) — To Floyd Mayweather, his three-round match on New Year’s Eve in Japan is for entertainment only.
To opponent Tenshin Nasukawa, the “exhibition” is as serious as a kick to the head.
Which is what he wishes he could do to Mayweather.
But the rules of their match prohibit the unheralded kickboxer from kicking. So he’s taken a crash course in boxing. Among his advisers was three-weight world champion Jorge Linares.
“I can change the world with my fist,” Nasukawa said in his quiet voice on Tuesday after a demonstration workout at his family’s Teppen Gym in the Tokyo suburb of Matsudo.
Except, he really can’t change the world. There will be no judges and no official result.
When 20-year-old Nasukawa’s people were last month touting a real bout, the 41-year-old Mayweather walked away. He hasn’t fought since beating Conor McGregor more than a year ago for his 50th win from 50 fights. He returned to this matchup only after getting the rules clarified to make his first bout in Japan more about “entertainment.”
The Rizin Fighting Federation organizers are even willing to placate Mayweather by undertaking the weigh-in in his hotel room.
Despite everything, VIP seats are going for 100,000 yen ($1,000) each at Saitama Super Arena, on the northern outskirts of Tokyo.
There’s little Nasukawa has in common with Mayweather, apart from both being unbeaten. Nasukawa is undefeated as a kickboxer at 27-0 and undefeated in mixed martial arts at 4-0.
He said he never was much of a Mayweather fan, usually cheering for his opponents, such as Manny Pacquiao. And when he met him in person, Nasukawa said he was a little disappointed that Mayweather wasn’t as charismatic as he thought he was.
“I sensed no aura about him,” he said.
“He says such provocative stuff I feel like kicking him.”
Nasukawa said he can’t allow the taller and heavier Mayweather to land a single punch in their three rounds. He plans to use his kickboxing nous to avoid getting hit.
“He is the best so I can’t let my guard down. I’m sure his punches are fast but I’m sure I can see them.
“I feel excited, although some days I still feel afraid,” Nasukawa added. “But when the day comes, I want to fight with confidence.”