BAGUIO CITY — On an overcast Tuesday afternoon, Marlon Tapales and his chief trainer Ernel Fontanilla had the Shape Up Boxing gym all to themselves, a sight that was a total opposite to the frenetic scene that took place the day before when a group of Manila sportswriters came to see the country’s only reigning world champion.
It was the opportunity for Tapales and his chief trainer Ernel Fontanilla to ramp up their strategy just three weeks before the Filipino southpaw battles Naoya “Monster” Inoue on 26 December in Tokyo.
Not everything they talked about could be heard across the training facility that was used a few times by the great Manny Pacquiao over a decade ago.
They both spoke in hushed tones.
“To the body,” Fontanilla, wearing body pads, said.
Tapales then threw a left. And then another.
Fontanilla then back away but Tapales pursued him and threw a right jab and his favorite left — a perfectly-placed uppercut — that landed squarely on the mitts.
But the latest training session was not all about displaying firepower.
They also worked on defense, a facet of the game that will be immensely vital against the awesome ammo that Inoue will bring into the ring at the Ariake Coliseum.
“You have to do this when he (Inoue) does that,” Tapales told Fontanilla as he assumed a shoulder-roll stance.
In the end, punching will be the deciding factor in the scheduled 12-rounder that will have all the four major belts — World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization — on the line.
Inoue, regarded as one of the best in the world right now, has plenty of that.
In fact, that’s written on Inoue’s calling card.
Besides, only three weathered the Inoue storm in 25 fights.
Tapales, though not as revered as the Japanese pound-for-pound star, packs a mean wallop as well.
Holding a 37-3 record with 19 knockouts, Tapales takes pride in his left uppercut and his lead right, punches his team believes will propel him to greatness.