The River Part 1: Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Yuki Yonaha

After conquering the world of kickboxing, Tenshin Nasukawa has his eyes set on the title of the sport of boxing. After an embarrassing performance against Floyd Mayweather in 2018, many rolled their eyes at the thought of Nasukawa moving over to a more restrictive and specialized ruleset. Upon taking his first bout in 2023, Nasukawa looked nothing short of great.

His win over fellow Japanese boxer Yuki Yonaha was a showing of what Tenshin Nasukawa has to offer as a boxer: and it’s to entertain. In this new series, I will be diving into the career of Nasukawa as it happens. Today, we are going over his first fight and looking at how he uses his southpaw stance to piece up Yuki Yonaha.

Tenshin Nasukawa: The Basics Of Southpaw Boxing

Much of what Tenshin Nasukawa did in his new-found profession was basic southpaw work. Yuki Yonaha wasn’t the best fighters but for a debutant, who was 13-4-1 with 8 knockouts, was more than sufficient of a test for Nasukawa, the debutant.

With “Teppin’” being a southpaw, much of this article will be about the outside foot advantage that he likes to go out and take. It’s worth noting, however, that the outside foot advantage is not the rule. There are plenty of fighters, namely Manny Pacquiao, who are southpaws and attack the inside angle. By stepping to the outside as a southpaw, you do give the orthodox fighter that inside angle. Yonaha was not able to capitalize on this with the hand fighting and movement of Nasukawa and dropped the fight.

Before we immerse ourselves into the offense of the 25-year-old, we must first discuss the hand fighting. Nasukawa used hand fighting to gain position on Yonaha and grab his outside foot position. Having control of the lead hand of Yuki Yonaha let’s Nasukawa also control the jab as he moves, forcing Yonaha chasing Nasukawa with the right as he’s circling away.

(1) As he and Yonaha step into the pocket, Nasukawa will (2) jab with Yonaha and step to the outside off of the center line. As he pivots, (3) Nasukawa keeps his lead hand on top of Yonaha’s, controlling the hand and how quick it can return.

From this position, Nasukawa has several options to attack. As of right now, there’s not many better than Shakur Stevenson. He is an expert with lining up shots and pivoting to keep opponents guessing.

Against Robson Conceicao, Stevenson put on an outside foot position clinic. The exchange starts out (1) with Shakur as the southpaw and Conceicao is the orthodox fighter. Stevenson steps to the outside foot position and (2) draws a jab out of Conceicao. As we discussed with Nasukawa, Stevenson keeps his lead hand on top of Conceicao’s, controlling it and parrying it down to create a striking lane. After stepping in, (3a) Shakur Stevenson doubles up on the depth of his advantage as he steps in on his own jab. (3b) As Stevenson steps in, he will also bring his rear foot around to (4) line up his left hand for a big power shot. Conceicao has to pivot into Stevenson or push him away like we discussed on What makes Teofimo Lopez so effective against southpaws? on Substack. But he doesn’t get to either of these options in time and (5) Stevenson lands the left hook.

What Tenshin Nasukawa is missing is that second step large enough to the outside to line up that big left hand consistently.

Nasukawa and Yonaha are (1) lined up in the mirrored stance with Nasukawa as the southpaw. (2) He steps in on the jab and then takes his step to the outside, one that’s a bit larger. Notice next, however, (3) how wide Nasukawa’s base is. It is even more exaggerated in the final frame (4) as Yonaha dips away.

Now compare Tenshin Nasukawa’s stance on the outside to Shakur Stevenson’s.

Nasukawa’s base is much wider as he didn’t bring his back foot forward in on his second step through. Nasukawa will want to shore this up going forward.

Offensive Onslaught

With all of Tenshin Nasukawa’s issues, and there will be more to come, he has a keen eye for effective offense and his kickboxing, Muay Thai, and MMA experience played a pivotal role in this.

Building on the hand fighting done by Nasukawa and touch up upon with our section on Shakur Stevenson, Nasukawa knows the shots he’s looking for. He was just not specialized enough from his kickboxing days to get the technique down fully.

(1) We start our next section off in the mirrored stance once again. (2) Nasukawa steps in and, instead of jabbing, gets the top hand position and will parry down Yonaha’s jab coming back at him. (3) With the hand down and having the outside position, Nasukawa will (4) look for the left uppercut in an attempt to time Yonaha’s dip. He misses wildly but will (5) pivot to his right and create an angle on the step through. Yonaha isn’t quick enough to get in position and (6) Nasukawa lands a straight left.

While Nasukawa did have issues over extending, we did see shades of the Shakur-style attack from the outside foot position. (1) Yuki Yonaha managed to press Tenshin Nasukawa to the corner, a dangerous spot to be. Yonaha’s stance has his lead foot wider than Nasukawa’s. (2) The 25-year-old will have to step out and around Yonaha’s foot to escape and not get caught in the corner. Once he does this, he can pivot his rear leg out and away. To do this and not get caught on one leg, Nasukawa jabs to make Yonaha cover up. Once he gets the outside foot, (3) Nasukawa is very deep into the position, enough so that he can find the same shot we spoke about with Stevenson earlier. (4) Nasukawa picks up on this and (5) lands the uppercut to the body.

Nasukawa’s love for entertainment put him out of position a fair amount. As the fight went on, Nasukawa threw leaping uppercuts that took him off of both of his feet. I understand that he’s always been the entertaining type but boxing fans find love in the sport and it being done beautifully. For every Prince Naseem, a fighter who will showboat and be great, there’s Mike Tyson, Canelo Alvarez’ and Vasyl Lomachenko, Naoya Inoue even; boxers who are loved for their beauty of boxing. It’s the far more proven path and I’d like to see Tenshin Nasukawa move in the direction of the refined boxer. But with his love of the dramatic, he may go the opposite way.

Of course, I do not want to see all of his kickboxing flair go away.

Tenshin Nasukawa loves the Superman punch. He has thrown it all his career. The whole point behind the punch is pushing off as you’re going backwards and landing with the change in momentum as your opponent comes to you.

Our final look starts (1) in a rare moment of orthodox for Nasukawa. As Yonaha comes forward on Nasukawa’s retreat, “Teppin’” (2) steps back into his normal southpaw stance. On the step back (3) Nasukawa plants off his left foot, the rear foot, and (4) lands a left cross flush.

While this isn’t a Superman punch in the strictest sense, the giving of ground is the real star here. Nasukawa managed to lead Yonaha, who was hunting a knockout in the fifth round, on to his left hand.

Tenshin Nasukawa has some boogeymen in his division of 122 and a long way to go to get to those monsters. Stephen Fulton, Luis Nery, and his fellow Japanese boxer, Naoya Inoue all lurk at the top of the division. But we are looking at a 1-0 boxer with tons of talent. He’s only 25 years old. And he’s got a load of experience in the fire and flames of fighting, though it’s not boxing proper. Nasukawa has time to improve and going into his next bout, we will look at how he improves in part two of The River. He will have to be like a river, like water as in the words of Bruce Lee. He will have to adapt from being the best kickboxer in the world and climb the lonely mountain of the sport of boxing.

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Blaine Henry

Just your friendly neighborhood fight fan!

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