Rise yesterday appealed for members of the public to apply online to fight Tenshin Nasukawa. It is an embarrassing situation for a kickboxer who should aspire to be the world’s best to find himself in.

One of the criticisms often aimed at Tenshin by fans of the sport is his level of opposition. To be regarded the very best you should test yourself against the very best and that hasn’t been the case so far in his career.

Tenshin’s career is in danger of being defined by freak show fights and mismatches. His most high profile match to date, the one sided beatdown at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, fits neatly into both categories and was a serious humiliation for the Japanese superstar.

Having a promotion put out an online appeal for potential opponents is not a good look either. There are a handful of kickboxers good enough to test the 21 year old and everyone knows who they are and where to find them.

Tenshin was originally due to face Yuki Taguchi in the first round of the Rise Tournament but the bout was nixed due to the ongoing coronavirus, or Covid-19 situation. This opponent would have been coming into the fight on a three fight losing streak with a 30-27 record, hardly the sort of test he needs at this point in his career.

Legendary names

Masato won the K-1 Max 2003 and K-1 Max 2008. The Japanese fighter definitely benefited from some generous judging on occasions but his resume speaks for itself.

Masato beat Andy Souwer, Artur Kyshenko, Buakaw Por Pramuk, Mike Zambidis and Albert Kraus. He has faced some of the best kickboxers of the century.

Where are the legendary names on Tenshin’s resume? He has beaten opponents in much more spectacular style than Masato but has come into virtually all of his recent fights as a massive favourite.

Masato beat some of the best Japanese fighters of the era like Yoshihiro Sato, Takayuki Kohiruimaki. He also polished off a fair few MMA fighters including Tatsuya Kawajiri, Gesias Calvancante, Ole Laursen, Norifumi Yamamoto and Jadambaa Narantungalag.

Odds on

Tenshin has also registered impressive wins over Japanese fighters and mixed martial artists. He has also beaten some top Muay Thai fighters like Suakim PKSaenchaigym, Rodtang Jitmuangnon and Wanchalong PKSaenchaigym.

But every time Tenshin steps into the ring instead of asking themselves ‘will he win?’, fans are wondering ‘will he be able to win with one of his special moves?’ That’s because the odds are always stacked in the 21 year old’s favour, with the Mayweather fight being the very notable exception.

On the one occasion when Tenshin did appear to come up short, against Rodtang in 2018, the Japanese judges rushed to his rescue. Masato had more than his fair share of extra round decision wins too, but at least he was consistently testing himself against top kickboxers.

The only true test left for Tenshin in Japan is Takeru but the rivalry between K-1 and Rizin has led to lawsuits being filed so it looks like a fight that will unfortunately not materialise unless either of them change promotions at some point.

Early days

Saenchai PKSaenchaigym has been on a retirement tour for the past six years. He has been showboating his way to victory in fights which are made for him to show off his tricks.

But Saenchai earned the right to do that by consistently beating the best Muay Thai fighters of his era. He was so good that he was constantly matched with bigger opponents just to make the fights competitive.

Tenshin cannot look back on an illustrious career like Saenchai. He is just starting out in the sport and wins over boxers like Amnat Ruenroeng or mixed martial artists like Kyoji Horiguchi and Fritz Biagtan don’t carry much weight at this stage.

Both Wanchalong and Suakim were reigning Lumpinee champions when Tenshin stopped them in spectacular style. But neither has ever achieved anything in the world of kickboxing.

Real tests

With the Takeru fight not on the table the big fights and big tests for Tenshin are all outside of Japan. A rematch with Rodtang would be any fight fan’s dream match up after the controversial result last time they fought.

Rodtang put on a ferocious performance, backing up Tenshin and hammering him with hard punches and kicks, showing the way to fight the young prodigy was with pressure, not giving him any space to set up his spectacular shots and not giving him hardly any time to breathe.

At the end of five rounds most impartial fans thought Rodtang had done enough to beat Tenshin, with the young Japanese fighter looking exhausted and often well outside his comfort zone.

The judges didn’t see it that way though and scored the fight a draw. The deciding round saw Rodtang push forward again, but to his shock the fight was awarded to Tenshin.

Overseas appeal

Most of the world’s top kickboxers are heading for the ONE Super Series and it is difficult to see where Tenshin is going to find a suitable opponent on the Rizin or Rise roster. If he really wants to prove himself the world’s best a rematch with Rodtang would be the best place to start, while Ilias Ennahachi would also be a genuine test.

The best kickboxers in the world are contracted to major promotions, they are not trawling Twitter to apply for fights. If Tenshin’s career continues on its current course he will never have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of legends like Masato and prove his greatness.

The 21 year old is at a career crossroads. Now is the time for Tenshin to take a stand and demand he is matched with elite kickboxers who can test his mettle instead of journeymen, mixed martial artists and members of the public applying on Twitter.