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List of Articles by Rico Navarro

Bleacher Talk: Marlon Tapales, Our Newest World Champion

By Rico Navarro
31 Jul 2016

Little did sports fans notice that the Philippines has a brand new world champion in boxing. Presenting Marlon Tapales, the WBO bantamweight champion of the world. He knocked out erstwhile Thai world champion Pungluang Sor Singyu last Wednesday in the now former champion’s backyard in Thailand. Tapales has proven once again that the Pinoy boxer is a world beater and there are other, more quiet and “via the backdoor” ways to win a world championship.

One can’t help but notice that Tapales didn’t win the title via the big-time TV package or promoter route, the path taken by the other Pinoy world champions Nonito Donaire, Donnie Nietes and Johnriel Casimero. Tapales isn’t a featured boxer of ALA Promotions and its Pinoy Pride series although he did appear in two Pinoy Pride editions, nor is he under Top Rank or Sampson Lewkowicz. He won his title the arduous way through a combination of breaks, networking and hard work. The irony of it all is that his manager Rex “Wakee” Salud isn’t as active as a promoter as he was before when he managed the likes of his other former world champions in Malcolm Tunacao, Gerry Peňalosa and Dodie Boy Peňalosa. Tapales’s route to the world championship went through the backdoor/behind-the-scenes path. He won the regional WBO Asia Pacific bantamweight championship in August 2013 in Cebu three months after losing in an attempt to win the interim WBC Silver superflyweight title in Mexico. After winning this belt which had him world-ranked by the WBO, he spent the next two years fighting four foreigners and one Pinoy before facing Sor Singyu. The key victory was a smashing knock-out win over then undefeated Japanese prospect Shohei Omori in Japan last December, paving the way for the mandatory title defense from which Sor Singyu couldn’t run away.

It’s ironical that Tapales actually lost in his first fight to win a championship, bowing to Brix Ray for the PBF light flyweight title in 2009. But in his next fight, he defeated “Idol” champion Jerson Mancio (who was also undefeated then), veteran Armand de la Cruz and world-rated and former interim WBA light flyweight champion Randy Petalcorin. He finally won the Philippine light flyweight title in April 2010 and defended it once in the same year. Between 2010 and 2013, Tapales went up in weight and fought at either the super flyweight (115 pounds) or bantamweight (118 pounds) divisions. This stretch included his first fight overseas in Las Vegas and his two appearances in a Pinoy Pride event of ALA Promotions (which is reportedly interested in signing him up to a contract). His second Pinoy Pride stint was the title fight where he won the WBO Asia Pacific bantamweight title over Frederix Rodriguez. As a “free agent” in 2014, he defeated Galih Susanto in Davao, Hayato Kimura in Japan and Fadhili Majiha in Tubod, Lanao del Norte, a title defense of his WBO regional belt. These fights weren’t spectacular but good enough to maintain his world ranking. His fighting in Mindanao is most likely the reason why he didn’t get as much media visibility as other more media-exposed boxers. His last fight in Cebu was in 2013.

2015 was a good year for Tapales as he knocked out Jecker Buhawe in January 2015 in Davao, then waited for eleven months to score the bone-crunching KO win over Omori. The Japanese was being groomed for bigger things and Tapales was supposed to be a stepping stone. But the proud son of Lala, Lanao del Norte, refused to follow the script and scored a confidence-building KO win, setting him up for the mandatory title defense of Sor Singyu. Well we all know what happened here, don’t we? As a mandatory challenger without the resources to stage title fight in the country, Tapales didn’t have a choice but go for it in Thailand, a boxing country where one needs to knock his opponent out to guarantee a win. Making the fight go the distance in Thailand is almost an automatic loss via a hometown decision. And so Tapales knocked Sor Singyu out in the eleventh round and the rest is history. If you haven’t seen any of his fights, go to YouTube.

Looking forward, Tapales shouldn’t sit back and relax now that he’s a world champ. Here’s hoping that he uses this world title win as a springboard to work harder, become even better than ever, and hang on to his title for a long time. We don’t want to see Tapales becoming a one-fight wonder and lose his title in his first defense. You can also be sure that other bantamweight challengers will be positioning for his belt. It’s now crucial for Wakee Salud to plot out a medium to long term plan for Tapales. He needs to arrange for title fights in the country, but will also need the support of the boxing, media and business segments. I’m 100% sure that offers from Mexican, Thai or Japanese promoters will flood his email very soon. I just hope he can have a Philippine-based outfit to support him. If signs up with ALA Promotions, he’s assured of at least two fights a year in the Pinoy Pride series and a chance to be featured on ABS-CBN. Salud is also very close to Senator Manny Pacquiao and could very well lean on the support of MP Promotions. A quick look at our Pinoy world champs reflects contrasting scenarios. WBO super bantamweight champ Donaire (Top Rank) and WBO light flyweight champ Nietes (ALA) have the backing of ABS-CBN, while IBF light flyweight champ Casimero fights abroad under Sampson Lewkowicz Promotions. Let’s pray that Tapales lands a promoter or have Wakee handle this himself.

Kudos once again to Marlon Tapales of the RWS Stable. You won on enemy territory, came home almost unnoticed and are most likely back home in Lala, Lanao del Norte living a simple life. You are inspiration to the lesser known boxers and have proven that nothing is impossible. May your reign last a long one.

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