After RIZIN 14: Mayweather vs. Nasukawa, Can We Put the Whole MMA vs. Boxing Argument to Bed?

Floyd Mayweather (right) landing on Tenshin Nasukawa at RIZIN 14
Floyd Mayweather (right) landing on Tenshin Nasukawa at RIZIN 14, December 31, 2018 Credit: RIZIN FF

Mayweather vs. Nasukawa at RIZIN 14 didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know. Except that the MMA vs. boxing argument has grown old.

Well, that was certainly something. If RIZIN 14 taught us anything, it’s that MMA fighters simply do not fare well in boxing. And that weight classes exist for a reason. After weeks of anticipation, and a real possibility that Floyd Mayweather Jr. might pull out of the event, ‘Money’ did in fact show up on New Year’s Eve in Japan. At the Saitama Super Arena, Mayweather met Japanese kickboxing sensation Tenshin Nasukawa in what was billed as a three round exhibition.

Sparring, in other words. No judges. No decisions. A referee, yes, and the chance that someone could be finished.

Someone was. Vastly overpowered and undersized, Nasukawa had speed, but Mayweather had the boxing smarts and technique to avoid his attacks. In turn, he was able to knock the young fighter down three times within a couple of minutes. The sight of Tenshin flailing on the ground was nearly a bigger surprise than the fact that Mayweather actually showed up. Or hearing Lenne Hardt announce the infamous, 50-0 boxer.

Floyd Mayweather RIZIN 14
Floyd Mayweather walked out with a surgical mask and live rapper at RIZIN 14, December 31, 2018 Credit: RIZIN FF

By the time Nasukawa had been dropped by a check hook, the third time he had hit the canvas in the opening round, his corner has seen enough. They threw in the towel, bringing an end to a spectacle that wasn’t supposed to be viewed in North America, where it might somehow tarnish Mayweather’s image. As if global media and internet piracy weren’t going to ensure it was widely seen anyway. Or maybe it was just concern for his bottom line: Mayweather claimed to be getting nine million dollars for nine minutes of work (three x three minute rounds, had the fight gone the distance). Yet there was no North American PPV outside of’s online stream, which aired sans Mayweather vs. Nasukawa.

No matter. RIZIN FF got the headlines it craved, though perhaps at the expense of one of their biggest stars. The only upside, the bout will not go on the records of either man. Tenshin, Mayweather reminded fans after the fight, remains undefeated in combat sports. Both MMA, and kickboxing. ‘Money’ himself remains 50-0, his last win coming against UFC star Conor McGregor.

Perhaps now, MMA’s infatuation with boxing and Mayweather in particular can be over. Mayweather, to his credit, sold the Japanese star after the fight, singing his praises. That won’t undo the image of the 20-year old in tears following the loss, however, nor how easily he was put down by the bigger, stronger American. Yet it’s as close to damage control as can be done in this case. And the entire affair serves only to remind the combat sports world that boxing and MMA (and even boxing and kickboxing) are different sports. Just as boxers have struggled in the cage, martial artists will struggle against pure boxers.

Floyd Mayweather knocks down Tenshin Nasukawa at RIZIN 14
Floyd Mayweather knocks down Tenshin Nasukawa at RIZIN 14, December 31, 2018 Credit: RIZIN FF

The rule sets are simply too different for one to walk back and forth with ease. Of course, some will claim the fix was in, that Nasukawa took it lightly, or any other excuse they can come up with. The fact remains, Mayweather isn’t about to be defeated by a fighter who has never competed at a high level in boxing, even in his 40s.

Yet he would have fared poorly in a kickboxing affair, against an opponent his own size. Tenshin Nasukawa fights at flyweight in Japan. Mayweather’s last bout came against Conor McGregor, a lightweight, occasional welterweight. He’s never had to defend a takedown, and despite his continued flirtation with the MMA world, he never will.

So, can we put the whole argument to bed now? Stop giving Mayweather, one of the most reviled figures in boxing despite his in-ring accomplishments, our attention? That would be ideal, though if he can find a way to milk more money out of the MMA fanbase, Mayweather most certainly will. And if fans keep watching, promotions will certainly welcome him.

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