Philippine boxing’s most important fight of 2023 is just around the corner.
Plane tickets have been issued and Marlon Tapales and his team are looking forward to spending the most wonderful time of the year in Tokyo by upstaging Naoya Inoue in their four-belt super-bantamweight showdown.
Over in Baguio City, where Tapales has been grinding the last four weeks, the mood is upbeat as the Filipino southpaw risks his World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation straps.
Inoue, nicknamed “Monster,” will dangle his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization belts in a scheduled 12-rounder on 26 December at the Ariake Arena.
Though the massive underdog, Tapales is a live one and not a mere sacrificial lamb.
I understand why Inoue is the clear and heavy favorite.
He is the complete package. He is fast and furious.
But Tapales is no slouch.
He’s got a solid skillset. Packs a punch, too.
And one thing that has impressed me about him is his bravery.
Been with him thrice overseas.
He was given up for dead when he fought for the WBO bantamweight title in Ayutthaya in 2016 but rebounded and stopped his Thai rival.
He got stripped of the title in his first defense and was on the verge of defeat in Osaka in 2017 against Shohei Omori.
But Tapales sprang back to life and halted the Japanese in the 11th round.
Last April in San Antonio, Texas, I watched him upset Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev on a split decision to win the WBA and IBF crowns.
For the fourth time, I will be at ringside to cover his bold bid to become an undisputed champion.
And for the first time, my “unbeaten record” is likewise in danger of being stained because Tapales will be up against one of the world’s best fighters regardless of weight.
I am looking forward to the huge challenge.
If Tapales pulls it off, it will go down as one of the biggest upsets in history, comparable to what David did to Goliath.
In sports, boxing has produced a myriad of the world’s greatest upsets.
Feeling upbeat that another one is about to be added to the list.