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Confident kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa preparing for unique showdown with Floyd Mayweather

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

No matter how one of the all-time best boxers views his New Year’s Eve showdown with Tenshin Nasukawa, the kickboxing phenom is planning to shock the world by putting on a competitive fight.

With two weeks to go until his special three-round exhibition boxing match against superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr. at a Rizin 14 mixed martial arts event on Dec. 31 at Saitama Super Arena, Nasukawa insisted that he is getting prepared and gaining confidence.

“I’ve been able to absorb so many various different moves,” said Nasukawa, who had just returned home from a two-week training camp in Las Vegas, at an open workout at Teppen Gym on Tuesday evening.

In Nevada, the 20-year-old trained at the gym of Jorge Linares, a former lightweight world champion who is promoted by Japan’s Teiken Promotions and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Nasukawa said that he even sparred with Linares while the Venezuelan gave him instructions for Mayweather, which the kickboxer thinks made him more like a boxer.

“He taught me how to find a way to land a punch against (Mayweather’s Philly Shell defense),” Nasukawa said. “He’s got an outstanding defense, and (Linares) told me some certain punches (to use) against him.”

Nasukawa said that he’s improved his footwork and techniques to land punches. Yet the undefeated kickboxer (28-0 record) continued to say that he did not intend to perform a conventional style of boxing against Mayweather.

“I’m planning to show moves that will surprise him,” Nasukawa said with a grin. “I’m going to capitalize on the kickboxing techniques that I’ve learned as much as I can.”

Mayweather (50-0 as a pro) has emphasized that the Nasukawa match in Japan would only be an exhibition, and many think that he wouldn’t let his opponent touch him due to a peek-a-boo style of boxing, as he often exhibited throughout his career.

But Nasukawa, who said that Mayweather is giving himself room for excuses in case he struggles against the young kickboxer, believes that he can knock the 41-year-old down if he is “able to land” his blows.

There is a considerable weight gap between the two men. Nasukawa usually fights around the featherweight class (up to 57 kg), while Mayweather has competed in heavier divisions such as welterweight and super welterweight (up to 69.8 kg in the latter category).

That said, Nasukawa certainly acknowledges the risk of absorbing punches from Mayweather. So he plans to use all of his concentration to evade Mayweather’s attacks.

“He’s one of the best fighters in the world,” Nasukawa said. “So I can’t afford to let my mind wander for a second. I will use even more concentration than I have and I will try to be ready no matter when he throws me a punch.”

The Chiba Prefecture native, who practiced karate growing up, is not a total stranger to boxing. He trained at Teiken Gym while also working on other martial arts while growing up.

On this day, famous Teiken trainer Yuichi Kasai put on mitts and caught Nasukawa’s punches for a round.

Kasai, who developed Japanese fighters like Toshiaki Nishioka and Takashi Miura into world champions, stressed how great Nasukawa is as a boxer as well. The 49-year-old said that Nasukawa has exceptional dynamic vision and would have a competitive bout against Mayweather.

However, Kasai admitted that it would not be “that easy” for a non-boxer like Nasukawa to beat an elite fighter like Mayweather and that Nasukawa would only be able to “land his jabs” at best. But he expects Nasukawa to step into the ring with certain tactics to astonish his opponent.

“If (Nasukawa) will be able to force Mayweather to fight seriously, that’d be a victory for him,” said Kasai, who has occasionally trained Nasukawa since he graduated from junior high school. “If he makes Mayweather serious and ends up getting away (from being knocked out), that’d be his win.”

Kasai also said that Nasukawa is now at a level to be able to compete against world-class boxers. He said that Linares is asking Nasukawa to be his sparring partner for his potential rematch against WBA and WBO lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, who defeated Linares by a technical knockout in May.

“I don’t think the Japanese champion would beat him,” Kasai said.