To start from the beginning, back in September Floyd Mayweather Jr. began teasing the idea of a Manny Pacquiao rematch. However, before that fight would happen, he said, he’d be taking part in a “huge boxing event,” in Tokyo. Adding that fans should “stay tuned” for more details.
Two months later and it seemed that the huge tune-up fight had come to fruition, but in a way that entirely shocked the combat sports world. Mayweather wasn’t going to be ‘boxing’ – at least not entirely. Instead he’d be competing in a ‘special rules’ bout against 20-year-old phenom, and world-class kickboxing champion, Tenshin Nasukawa. And he’d be doing so under the promotional banner of the heir to Pride FC’s mantel, RIZIN Fighting Federation.
Floyd even started promoting the event in a – since deleted – Instagram post; a picture of himself in a pair of RIZIN MMA gloves.
He traveled to Japan for a photo-shoot with Tenshin, promotional materials were printed, and the date was set for RIZIN’s annual NYE spectacle. It all seemed too weird to be true. And apparently it was.
In a bizarre followup message to fans, Mayweather announced that the bout had been cancelled as soon as his trip to Japan was over. He claimed the fight was intended to be “an exhibition put on for a small group of wealthy spectators for a very large fee.” And that it was a “‘Special Bout’ purely for entertainment purposes with no intentions of being represented as an official fight card nor televised worldwide.”
A strange turn from what was originally called a “huge boxing event,” and seemingly in the works for months out; plenty of time for Floyd and his team to figure out what RIZIN was about and who Tenshin was. Whether RIZIN really thought they could pay Floyd an appearance fee to perform in a ‘mixed rules’ fight, or whether Mayweather just got cold feet once he realized it wasn’t going to be just boxing, or whether the whole thing was just a months long con on all sides, either way, the match appears to be off.
And Floyd’s actions throughout have drawn some unsurprising criticism. Chael Sonnen gave his feelings on ‘Money’ Mayweather’s decision making, and how Floyd seems to have mishandled the whole spectacle from the start.
“It was a tremendous mistake,” Sonnen said on a recent episode of Ariel and the Bad Guy (transcript via MMA Fighting). “The retirement just so you can use that to market the comeback. You can never have the comeback if you don’t have the retirement. Floyd knows this, Floyd tries to copy this, but Ariel, the one miss that he had, the ingredient that has to be there if you’re going to pull a stunt like this . . . it has to be at a time when people all come out saying, ‘Why?! Why would you retire? You’re so good! You have more left!’ When you retire at a time when people are looking at you going, ‘You should retire,’ you can’t get that feel, you can’t get that buzz back.
“This is what happened to Floyd. When Floyd went in there and boxed Conor, what was happening was the greatest of a generation took on an amateur, and when it took 30 minutes to get the amateur out of there, it was easier for the boxing world to go, ‘well yeah, but he was retired anyway.’”
To Sonnen’s way of thinking, the move smacked of the idea that Mayweather may be running low on cash. And that that’s the only reason he’d “go and offer his services in a stunt fight over in Japan.”
Whichever way it breaks down, ultimately – and even if RIZIN paid him a large upfront appearance fee – it looks a lot like Mayweather got used to help build steam for the promotion’s end of year event. Even without him on it, the connection is likely to drive more interest than just about any the Japanese fight organization could make, short of actually securing Mayweather for the bout.