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Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s Next Opponent? A Kickboxer

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Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s retirement keeps getting weirder. After retiring in 2015, he became a boxing promoter. Then he ended his retirement to fight Conor McGregor, a mixed martial arts champion. Now Mayweather, one of the greatest boxers in history, will apparently return to the ring again.

On New Year’s Eve, Mayweather will continue his odd post-retirement career with a bout near Tokyo against Tenshin Nasukawa, an undefeated Japanese kickboxer.

Mayweather is now 41, while Nasukawa is just 20. But despite his youth, Nasukawa has an impressive fighting résumé, with 27 kickboxing victories, dating to when he was 15, and a 4-0 record in M.M.A. Combat Press rates him as the eighth-best bantamweight kickboxer in the world.

Mayweather’s boxing match against M.M.A. superstar McGregor was one of the events of the year in 2017, drawing attention that reached well beyond the sports world. Mayweather dominated McGregor, who had never boxed professionally, winning in a 10th round knockout.

Fight fans will no doubt be looking forward to reading details of Mayweather’s next adventure. But despite the official announcement earlier this week, those details have not been forthcoming.

Will the men face off in boxing, kickboxing or M.M.A.? (Mayweather fought McGregor under very slightly modified boxing rules.) At what weight will the men fight? (Mayweather fought the latter part of his career at 147, and faced Mayweather weighing 150 pounds; Nasukawa weighs more like 125.) Will it be a megabucks fight? (Mayweather earned upward of $300 million for the McGregor fight.)

“As far as the weight class and the rules, we’ll talk about that,” Mayweather said at the news conference announcing the fight.

“We still have some work to do,” said Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the chairman of Rizin, the Japanese M.M.A. organization that is promoting the bout, in what seemed like a big understatement.

For a retired fighter, Mayweather has been busy. There has also been talk of a bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov, who beat McGregor in MMA last month. The chance of that bout taking place seemed to fade over the last week when U.F.C. president Dana White said it would have to be under MMA rules and Mayweather dismissed that possibility.

There has also been talk of a rematch of the famous 2015 bout with Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather won that fight by decision. Pacquiao is now 39, but still active and a titleholder. He is scheduled to fight in January in Brooklyn.

The imprecise details of the Nasukawa bout calls to mind another time when a superstar American boxer went to Japan to fight under vague rules.

In 1976, world champion Muhammad Ali took on a professional wrestler, Antonio Inoki, at the Budokan in Tokyo. Entertainment did not ensue.

When the bell rang, Inoki fell to the mat in a crablike posture and began kicking out at Ali’s legs. Ali danced around the ring looking for a chance to land a punch but not finding one. The bout continued for 15 interminable rounds and was scored a draw.


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