Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. has denied that he agreed to fight Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in a televised bout on New Year’s Eve, saying that he and his team had been misled as to the conditions of the fight.
In a post on Instagram, the undefeated (50-0) fighter said that he had “never agreed to an official bout” with Nasukawa, and had in fact been approached about a short exhibition match for a “small group of wealthy spectators.”
Mayweather said he and his team had been “completely derailed by the new direction” of the event, as presented at a press event on Monday, after signing with Japanese promoters RIZIN Fighting Federation.
“For the sake of the several fans and attendees that flew in from all parts of the world to attend this past press conference, I was hesitant to create a huge disturbance by combating what was being said and for that I am truly sorry,” Mayweather said.
However, the boxer spoke to CNN in Tokyo after the fight was announced, and at the time he appeared to be on board with the plans, although he said he “didn’t like to call this a fight — I like to call this a special event.”
Mayweather told CNN Talk Asia’s Anna Coren that it had “always been” one of his goals “to go outside the US and compete as a professional in what I love to do.”
At the time he said that the rules for the bout would be decided “within the next couple of weeks,” but said he was “pretty sure it’s going to be, you know, hand to hand combat, boxing, because I’m the A-side,” meaning that his preference would be prioritized.
In the Instagram post Mayweather said that the fight had been arranged as a “special bout,” which he said was “purely for entertainment purposes with no intentions of being represented as an official fight card nor televised worldwide.”
At the press conference in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo to announce the fight, the two fighters posed in front of a background advertising the date and venue of the planned fight, the Saitama Super Arena, a 37,000-capacity indoor venue 40 minutes north of Tokyo.
A spokeswoman for RIZIN told CNN that the company is “currently confirming the facts of the situation,” and will release a statement “at some point later.”
New Year’s TV events are a huge part of the Japanese cultural landscape, and most Japanese broadcasters run special programming.
Combat sports have long been a key element of the evening’s TV entertainment and consistently receive high ratings. Mayweather’s assumed participation had been a huge driver for RIZIN.
‘I want to give the people what they want’
At the press conference announcing the fight, the former five-weight world champion said that he had “wanted to do something different.”
“I wanted to display my skills outside the US and be in a special fight. I want to give the people what they want — blood, sweat and tears.”
His opponent, the 20-year-old Nasukawa, said at the time that he was relishing the chance to fight the legend.
“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.”
Coming out of retirement — again?
While Mayweather is officially retired, there have been suggestions that the 41-year-old American would re-enter the ring.
He’s already come out of retirement once, to beat UFC star Conor McGregor in 2017, and had been linked to a money-fight with former foe Manny Pacquiao.
UFC president Dana White has also suggested the boxer should face Russia’s Khabib Nurmagomedov, who recently bested McGregor in the octagon.
Mayweather has opened the door for a fight with Nurmagomedov — but only if it’s in the boxing ring.
The fighter made it clear to CNN that the ball is in the Russian’s court and admitted to previously meeting with the fighter’s management. He urged Nurmagomedov to think about the rewards.
“If Khabib wants to fight in a boxing match, we can,” he said. “If he wants to go to UFC and make the money that he’s been making, he can.
“When Khabib fought McGregor, he made $3-4 million. When you fight me you’re going to make way more.