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MANILA, Philippines – It’s been 9 months since WBO bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales was last in the ring, but his time away will come to an end this month.
The hard-hitting Filipino will make his first title defense on April 23 against Shohei Omori in Osaka, Japan. It will be a rematch of their 2015 fight which Tapales dominated, knocking him down 3 times in the first before finishing him in the second. The 25-year-old from Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte wants to show it was no fluke the first time.
“I didn’t expect that fight to come easy,” Tapales (29-2, 12 knockouts) told Rappler.com. “Maybe they want a rematch because they see holes in my game, thus they requested for a rematch.”
The first Omori fight set up his title-winning effort, an 11th round knockout of Pungluang Sor Singyu in Thailand last July, which saw Tapales knocked down twice in round 5 before coming back drop Sor Singyu twice to win the title. It was one of the best fights in all of boxing in 2016, but failed to make an impact in Tapales’ home country, where no television station carried the fight.
Tapales figures one issue plaguing boxing in the Philippines is the lack of big promotional events, like the ones ALA Promotions puts on in Cebu City that are beamed around the country by ABS-CBN.
Should Tapales get past Omori a second time, he could potentially end up being mandated to face his compatriot Arthur Villanueva (30-1, 16 KOs), the number one contender for his title who is based at the ALA Gym in Cebu City. Tapales, who trains across town at the eponymous gym of his manager Rex “Wakee” Salud, thinks it’d be a big moment for boxing in the country if they met with the title at stake.
Only twice have two Filipinos fought one another for a world title, including Pancho Villa’s 15-round decision over Clever Sencio at Wallace Field in Manila, and the 1938 fight between Small Montana and Little Dado for the California version of the World flyweight title.
In recent years the belief has spread that Filipinos fighting each other in big fights is taboo, but that wasn’t the feeling at the main table at the 17th Elorde Awards last month at Manila Hotel. Tapales expressed interest in making a fight with Villanueva, while former two-division champion Johnriel Casimero called for a fight with IBF junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas, who was sitting across the table from him.
“That is one of the things I am preparing for, maybe that will also be a good fight and it will be a good history for the Philippines,” Tapales said of a fight with Villanueva.
But first Villanueva will have to get past former IBF junior bantamweight champ Zolani Tete (24-3, 20 KOs) in an eliminator to become the mandatory challenger. That fight is scheduled for this Saturday, April 8 in Manchester, England on the undercard of the WBO lightweight title fight between Terry Flanagan and Petr Petrov. A Tete win would see an all-Filipino title fight go up in smoke.
“I think he will have a hard time against Tete,” said Tapales. – Rappler.com