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By Dong Secuya
16 Apr 2017

CEBU CITY – On the eve of his departure for Osaka, Japan to defend his WBO world bantamweight title against local boy Shohei Omori on April 23 at the Edion Arena in Osaka, Marlon Tapales revealed that the fight he wants most in the immediate future is a unification bout with WBC world bantamweight titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka, the undefeated Japanese fighter who captured his belt in 2011 and successfully defended it twelve times since. Yamanaka has defeated an array of name fighters including Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Liborio Solis and Anselmo Moreno twice. Yamanaka put a stop on former Filipino world champion Malcolm Tunacao's comeback bid when he knocked out the Cebu native in the final round on April 8, 2013 in Yamanaka's third defense of his title.

“Yes, that's the fight that I really wanted, a unification bout with Yamanaka because I want to fight with the best out there,” Tapales told Philboxing after doing a light workout Saturday at the Wakee Salud Gym.

Tapales, 25, who has shown a marked improvement in power during his last several fights, feels he is still peaking as a boxer and looks forward to being a world champion for a long time. And what better statement to make for the budding champion than by beating the unbeaten Yamanaka?

WBC world bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka.

But first things first – Tapales, who weighed 127 lbs Saturday 9 lbs over the bantamweight limit, has to get past his opponent on April 23 and him and his team have declared that all bases had been covered.

“I can't afford to be over-confident against Omori (18-1-0, 13KOs) because I know he is determined to exact revenge against his only loss,” Tapales, who stopped Omori in the 2nd round on Dec. 16, 2016 for the right to face then world champion Pungluang Sor Singyu of Thailand, said. Since then, Omori had racked up three victories, all by knockout, the last one was against two-time world title challenger Rocky Fuentes of the Philippines.

Tapales (29-2-0, 12KOs) who had trained for more than 2 months for this fight and had logged more 100 rounds of sparring, said he is prepared to whatever Omori brings at the top of the ring.

Tapales (L) catches Omori with a right during their first fight on Dec. 16, 2015 in Kyoto, Japan.

“Last time we met, he was aggressive from the start but when he felt my power, he ran. This time whether he's aggressive or box around, I'm determined to put the pressure on him,” Tapales said who added that “I'm aiming for a knockout but let's see what he does when the fight starts.”

Tapales's humble trainer Fernando Ocon, who engineered Tapales's first win over Omori, said, “I think we have a good chance of beating Omori again this time.”

Tapales will leave Cebu for Osaka Monday morning, April 17, accompanied by a large contingent headed by his manager Rex 'Wakee' Salud and wife Elvira and their son Ryan, Tapales's mother Maria, trainers Fernando Ocon and Brix Flores, boxer John Neil Tabanao who will see action on the undercard against Teiru Atsumi, former two-time world champion Gerry Penalosa, Dodie Boy Penalosa's wife Ann, Thai boxing aficionado Narong Hengtrakul, Dan Ismael Lim, Tito Abella, Roy Jumaoas Jr and this writer. Veteran boxing journalists Nick Giongco of The Manila Bulletin and Roy Luarca of The Inquirer will follow on Wednesday to also cover the fight.

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