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Operation Downfall — Underdog Tapales plots Japanese invasion

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Top Rank The final countdown begins for boxing’s yearend spectacle in Tokyo.

Told about the tremendous odds stacked against him, Marlon Tapales paused for a second or two before coming up with an answer bordering on the metaphysical.

“He breathes the same air that I breathe,” Tapales said in Filipino exactly four weeks before the most important fight of his career, referring to Japanese pound-for-pound star Naoya “Monster” Inoue.

“I am aware that he is the heavy favorite and I have been labeled as the long shot but I have a strong faith in what I can do.”

The unification showdown between Tapales, holder of the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation straps, and Inoue, owner of the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization belts, takes place on 26 December at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo.

Inoue is listed as a high -1400 favorite ($1400 wins $100) and Tapales a +800 underdog ($100 wins $800).

On paper, Inoue boasts of a 25-0 win-loss record with 22 knockouts and is best remembered for his mastery of fellow four-division titleholder Nonito Donaire.

The first time they met in 2019, Inoue had to walk the tightrope before winning on points.

But in the rematch almost three years later, Inoue would need less than two rounds to get the job done, crushing his fierce Filipino rival with his lethal left hook.

Tapales, parading a 37-3 mark with 19 knockouts, though, remains unfazed.

Presently in the peak of his preparations in Baguio City, the southpaw swears he is not traveling to Tokyo to assume the role of cannon fodder.

“I am coming to win,” Tapales added as he eagerly awaits for his lunch consisting of steamed white rice and a soup laced with fish and organic vegetables.

Some days, he wolfs down a bowl of boiled beef and fish and chicken dishes brought over by an integral part of his team, nutritional requirements that are vital in his bid to score a potential upset of the year candidate.

Tapales and his team are going down to Manila on 17 December to get ready for the flight to Tokyo two days later.

If victorious, Tapales will become the country’s first-ever undisputed champion, a feat not even the great Manny Pacquiao was able to achieve.

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