The most significant fight in Philippine boxing is finally happening.
Believe it or not, it doesn’t involve you-know-who.
Instead of Manny Pacquiao headlining a big card, it is another southpaw from Mindanao — two-belt world super-bantamweight king Marlon Tapales — who is taking the spotlight.
A couple of days ago, a press conference was held to formally announce the 26 December unification war starring Naoya Inoue and Tapales, a 12-rounder that will be hosted by the Ariake Arena in Tokyo.
Tapales was not in attendance but he was represented by Sean Gibbons, the American boxing man who handles the affairs of the reigning World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champion.
Inoue, the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization ruler, was present and he was joined on the stage by his chief handler, former fighter Hideyuki Ohashi.
Gibbons flew in from the United States, spent a few hours in the Japanese capital to attend the presser before proceeding to Manila later in the day to pick up Pacquiao, who was invited to grace the Tyson Fury headliner in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Tapales is the massive underdog.
Won’t contest those who are not giving the Filipino southpaw even the slimmest of chances.
Inoue is a monster.
You have to look at his growing list of victims to be convinced that he is indeed one of the great today pound-for-pound.
He narrowly beat Nonito Donaire the first time they met in 2019 and proved to everyone that he was the better fighter by dismantling the Filipino-American fighter in less than two rounds in the rematch.
I am among the very few who is rooting for Tapales to emerge victorious despite the tremendous odds.
In boxing, you have to remember that nobody’s invincible.
There is no such thing as invincibility in the boxing ring.
Even Mike Tyson, thought to be unbeatable, had to bow to Buster Douglas in 1990.
I am not saying that I am wishing that Inoue comes in on fight night not in 100 percent shape.
What I am saying is that, there’s always one guy out there who will have your number.
When Inoue attempts to become an undisputed champion for the second time in a second division, Tapales could be the guy who will stop him dead in his tracks.
Thought not a devastating puncher, Tapales is crafty and packs a punch as well. If he lands that punch of his at the right time and on the right spot, Inoue will hit the deck and might not even get up.
Tapales is courageous and is not intimidated by Inoue’s fearsome reputation.
I have been with him during his landmark bouts and have seen how determined he is.
Saw him get up from three knockdowns to win the world bantam crown in Ayutthaya, Thailand several years ago.
Was at ringside again when he was stripped of the title but still knocked out Japanese Shohei Omori in Osaka. And only last April in San Antonio, Texas, I was there as well when Tapales edged Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev to bag the WBA and IBF straps.
Call me names but I am standing by our guy.
So, when he locks horns with Inoue the day after Christmas, I would be there (secretly) cheering for him as the press is supposed to abide by the ages-old mantra that there should be no cheering from the press box.
But in the event Tapales scores a huge upset, kindly forgive me if I end up violating that sacred rule.