By Oliver Fennell
MARLON TAPALES is not only fluent in English but also speaks the language of Boxing News. As the current holder of the WBA and IBF super-bantamweight belts, the Filipino fighter will face Naoya Inoue, who holds the WBC and WBO titles, on December 26. While the match will undoubtedly be hyped as a battle for the undisputed 122lbs championship, Tapales understands that its true significance lies not in the alphabet trophies, but in the status it brings.
For Tapales, defeating Inoue is more important than winning the belts. Inoue is considered one of the top pound-for-pound boxers and is known for his skills and versatility. Although many may consider Tapales an underdog, he is unfazed by the label. He has defied the odds in the past, most notably when he outpointed Murodjon Akhmadaliev in April to win the titles he will defend against Inoue. Tapales is used to people doubting him and shrugs off the negativity.
While Tapales’ victory over Akhmadaliev was impressive, he acknowledges that Inoue is a different challenge altogether. To prepare for the fight, Tapales has embarked on the longest training camp of his career, spending four months in Las Vegas under the guidance of Ernel Fontanilla. Despite the doubts surrounding his chances, Tapales remains confident and believes in his ability to win. He sees weaknesses in Inoue’s style and plans to capitalize on them by countering and setting up combinations.
Tapales believes that his size advantage will also play a role in the fight. He has been sparring with bigger boxers to prepare and feels confident in his ability to absorb Inoue’s punches. He acknowledges that Inoue’s previous opponents thought they saw weaknesses too, but were quickly proven wrong by Inoue’s power. However, Tapales believes that Fulton’s psychological mindset played a significant role in his loss and aims to avoid making the same mistake.
Tapales’ journey to the world stage has been a challenging one. He grew up in a rural area with a difficult life but discovered boxing when his brother bought him gloves as a gift. He trained himself and had his first fight at a young age. Despite a lack of formal amateur experience, Tapales turned professional at the age of 16 and quickly realized his potential. He has faced setbacks along the way but has always bounced back stronger.
Tapales won his first world title in a thrilling fight against Pungluang Sor Singyu in 2016. Since then, he has experienced both success and defeat. However, he believes that he has improved significantly since his last loss and credits his new coach, Ernel Fontanilla, for his progress.
Tapales understands that defeating Inoue would be a major upset, but he remains determined and confident in his abilities. While he acknowledges that the belts are important symbols, his primary focus is on beating Inoue and proving himself as a top boxer in his division. Regardless of the outcome, Tapales’ journey and resilience serve as an inspiration to those who face adversity.