Tapales credits sparmates for toughness
By Joaquin Henson
Mon, 25 Dec 2023
For over a month, WBA/IBF superbantamweight champion Marlon Tapales worked out with a platoon of sparmates in Baguio to get ready for the fight of his life against unbeaten WBC/WBO titlist Naoya Inoue at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo tomorrow night. Tapales is an 8.5-1 underdog in the showdown for undisputed recognition but couldn’t care less about the odds. What’s on Tapales’ mind is the chance to make history as he hopes to become the first-ever Filipino undisputed world champion holding five belts, including The Ring Magazine strap.
If Tapales wins, he’ll defy the oddsmakers who’ve installed Inoue a heavy -1600 favorite. Last April, the Filipino was a 5-1 underdog against previously undefeated Murodjon Akhmadaliev but won by a split decision to wrest the WBA and IBF crowns. Tapales will attempt to outdo that feat in collecting Inoue’s WBC and WBO titles plus The Ring Magazine belt.
Fighting on hostile territory is nothing new to Tapales who’s a road warrior with an 11-2 overseas record. He has faced five Japanese opponents in six bouts and won five, losing only to Ryosuke Iwasa in New York in 2019. The loss to Iwasa was an aberration, said Tapales’ manager JC Manangquil, as it was an off-night and the defeat led to a switch in his training team that is now led by Ernel Fontanilla. Tapales’ heart was put to a severe test in Thailand in 2016 when he was decked twice by Pungluang Sor Singyu but recovered to score an 11th round stoppage. Tapales is unbeaten in four fights in Japan.
Naoya Inoue (L) and Marlon Tapales shake hands during their final press conference Sunday in Japan ahead of their undisputed title fight at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo on Tuesday, Dec. 26.
Inoue and Tapales pose each team members and promoter Bob Arum during Sunday's press conference in Japan.
Inoue, 30, boasts a 25-0 record, with 22 KOs and is a four-division world ruler. He has wiped out five Filipino opponents, including Nonito Donaire, Jr. twice. It was Donaire who gave Inoue a lot of trouble in their first meeting in 2019, leaving the Japanese with a broken nose, a fractured right orbital bone and a deep cut over the right eye before losing on points. The rematch, however, was one-sided three years later with Inoue halting Donaire in two rounds.
Strength and conditioning coach Larry Wade worked with Tapales in Las Vegas before he set up training camp in Baguio early last month. Wade couldn’t join Tapales in Baguio but sent his assistant Quincy Hatcher to continue the powering program. Tapales’ sparmates were Herlan Gomes, Jun Estrada, Cajun Carcosia, Pete Apolinario, Arnel Baconaje, Kevin Aseniero and Vincent Astrolabio. The toughest sparmate was Astrolabio who’s in line to challenge the winner of the Feb. 24 duel between WBC bantamweight champion Alejandro Santiago and Junto Nakatani. Astrolabio’s punching power comes close to Inoue’s.
“Lahat ng sparring namin maganda kasi iba-iba ang styles nila,” said Fontanilla. “Ang prediction ko is we go 12 rounds but if our gameplan works and Marlon catches Inoue early, the fight is over by KO before the sixth round.” Manangquil said there’s no doubt that Tapales will prevail. He pointed out that Tapales’ hunger, speed, power, ring IQ and timing will be factors to pull off one of the biggest upsets in boxing history since Buster Douglas, a 42-1 underdog, knocked out undefeated Mike Tyson in Tokyo in 1990. Tapales said the fight won’t last the distance and he envisions his arm being raised when the smoke of battle clears.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.
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