TOKYO (Reuters) – Floyd Mayweather's inflated arrival at his revelation as the new projection figure of a Japanese mixed martial arts promotion proved that regardless of the event or location, American boxing legend will always be box office.
Undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. of the United States attends a press conference to announce that he will join the promotional company Rizin Fighting Federation in Tokyo, Japan, on November 5, 2018. REUTERS / Issei Kato
The undefeated 41-year-old has announced he will retire from a retirement on Monday and will top the bill in the next round of the Rizin Fighting Federation on December 31 in a fight against a Japanese kickboxer with rules yet to be determined.
Prior to Monday's press conference, Mayweather gave a select number of media interviews over the weekend, but the identity of Rizin's recruiter for the Saitama event had been kept confidential.
Thus, with Mayweather's "The Money Team" logo displayed ostensibly in the living room, there was a palpable sense of intrigue before the American's late arrival.
When Mayweather finally appeared in front of the media in Tokyo, the American, whose boxing record is 50-50, was far more subdued than his noisy presentation, replacing his usual bravado with a serious business tone.
"We want to continue and I want to continue building my relationship with Money Team Tokyo, I want to continue to come here and bring other fighters here," Mayweather explained during a somewhat flamboyant press conference.
"My company has made some great fights happen in the US, but we are looking forward to taking the Mayweather promo banner and the TMT (World Money Team) banner around the world and whether that means working with a big guy like that. Rizin, Nobuyuki Sakakibara) then no problem.
It looks like Mayweather, who has won world boxing titles in five different weight categories, this fight is about expanding his brand and overseas business interests.
"I wanted to do something different. I've always wanted to show off my skills outside of the US and be in a special fight," added Mayweather, who fought all of his professional fights in the United States.
Mayweather's latest move comes as a big shock after he announced his second ring retirement after his defeat of Irish mixed martial arts (MMA) star Conor McGregor in a boxing match last year.
However, the most impressive aspect of Mayweather's announcement is his decision to sign with an MMA brand, having never competed in the octagon before.
Although boxing rules restrict attacks to using only punches, MMA also incorporates kicks, knees and elbows as well as wrestling, joint blockages and bottlenecks.
Mayweather and his team said they were still in talks with Rizin about the rules and format of the fight, which should be "in place" in the coming weeks.
The identity of Mayweather's opponent, Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa – a fighter at half the age of the American – muddles the waters even more.
Nasukawa competes in both MMA and kickboxing, and has won all four fights of the cage.
While Mayweather lavished praise on his opponent and even depreciated himself by saying "my body does not look the same as it used to," an optimistic Nasukawa exuded confidence.
"I would like to prove with my own fist what others have not been able to do in the past," said the 20-year-old who added that he accepted the offer to fight Mayweather without hesitation.
"My opponent looks taller than I thought, I think because of the aura around him, but I think I could hit him."
Nasukawa's comments prompted Mayweather and his business advisor Brent Johnson to break up radiant smiles, but there was a sense that in the past the former world champion would not take such a carefree course.
With fighting fans – both boxing and MMA – trying to process the latest turnaround in Mayweather's career, the final decision about the rules of their next fight will come basically before any real judgment can be made.
If this bid is an attempt to stay relevant, then Mayweather, whose business outlook was matched only by his performances in the ring, certainly found a way to keep his name in evidence.