- Why is Floyd Mayweather coming out of retirement to fight a Japanese kickboxer? Hint: It's the same reason why you love and hate him.
The greatest businessman in the history of professional sports struck again on Monday, when Floyd Mayweather popped up at a press conference in Tokyo to announce his next fight, a showdown with Tenshin Nasukawa, a 20-year old kickboxer/MMA fighter who will climb into some kind of ring with Mayweather on December 31st.
The first question you likely have is why, and that’s an easy one to answer. For months, Mayweather has been hinting at a return, and everyone should have taken him seriously. Mayweather needs attention like fish need water and in the 14-plus months since Mayweather steamrolled Conor McGregor, boxing has moved on without him. Canelo Alvarez is the sport’s biggest box office attraction, DAZN has taken HBO’s place in it and the division Mayweather once dominated, welterweight, has become the most interesting one in boxing.
Why is Mayweather back? Because he needs boxing more than boxing needs him.
The next question you might have is against who?, and that’s a tougher one to answer. Fans of the Rizin Fighting Federation—I see you out there—know Nasukawa as an unbeaten kickboxer who has drifted between kickboxing and MMA in recent years. He’s 5’4” (four inches shorter than Mayweather) and fights at 126-pounds (21 lighter than boxing’s 147-pound welterweight limit). He doesn’t have a notable win—MMA websites have been quick to point out Nasukawa decision win over former UFC fighter Kyoji Horiguchi earlier this year—and no history of traditional boxing.
Why is Mayweather fighting Nasukawa? Because Nasukawa has no chance of beating him.
The next question is for what?, and there could be a couple of answers here. Mayweather didn’t reveal financial details at the press conference, even downplaying his payday, bizarre given how Mayweather routinely screams at reporters how many zeroes are at the end of his checks. It’s unclear where the money is even coming from; international pay per views typically tank in the U.S., and media coverage of a 41-year old Mayweather against a complete unknown will be minimal.
Yet wherever RIZIN is getting the money from, Mayweather will be getting his share of it.
There could be more, too. As a fighter, Mayweather was a terrible promoter. While Mayweather became a global brand, his promotional company, Mayweather Promotions, was little more than a Mom and Pop operation. Mayweather Promotions has no television deal and rarely had any high level fighters in its stable. By contrast, Mayweather’s nemesis, Oscar De La Hoya, used his popularity in the early-2000’s to carve out a lucrative deal with HBO—and lure fighters to Golden Boy Promotions with it. It’s a strategy De La Hoya is attempting to duplicate with Alvarez, locking Alvarez into an 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN, an agreement that comes with dates for Golden Boy fighters in 2019, and beyond.
In announcing the fight with Nasukawa, Mayweather said he plans to do business with RIZIN in the future. RIZIN, it seems, could be Mayweather’s way of gaining a footprint in Asia.
There’s another reason. Fighting Nasukawa in a glorified exhibition re-inserts Mayweather into the combat sports bloodstream. A few weeks after Mayweather fights, Manny Pacquiao will be back in the ring, likely against Adrien Broner. It’s a winnable fight, even for the far faded Pacquiao, and it sets up the fight Mayweather really wants: A rematch with Pacquiao that could pocket him more than $100 million.
For what, you ask? Money—hundreds of millions of it.
Here’s where you tip your cap to Mayweather, who will make more money past the age of 40 than most athletes will make in a lifetime. It’s been more than a decade since Mayweather split with Top Rank, linked up with Al Haymon and birthed the Money Mayweather persona that helped him rake in hundreds of millions. Since unseating De La Hoya in 2007, Mayweather has fought fighters on his terms and rarely, if ever, fought a top tier opponent at the peak of his powers. Ricky Hatton was a plussed up junior welterweight. Alvarez was too green. Miguel Cotto was near the end of the line. The Pacquiao fight was years past its expiration date for all his bluster McGregor never had a shot.
It never mattered. Mayweather convinced you to buy, and you did.
He’s betting you will again, too.
We know little about Mayweather-Nasukawa, save for the date. What will be the weight limit? "As far as the weight class, we're not really worried about that,” Mayweather said. Will it be boxing, kickboxing or some form of both? "I'm not particular about the rules, with or without kicks," Nasukawa said. It’s hard to see Mayweather subjecting himself to knees to the liver or spin kicks to the skull, but hey, stranger things have happened.
Said Rizin chairman Nobuyuki Sakakibara, “We still have (our) work cut out for us.”
Mayweather is back, and Monday’s press conference was billed as Mayweather coming for Nasukawa, for Japan’s young star. But Mayweather is back for you, the viewer. He’s coming for you—and your money.