Tapales insists he’s no one-hit boxing wonder

By Joaquin Henson

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WBO bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales. Paul Jun E. Rosaroso

MANILA, Philippines - WBO bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales will make the first defense of his title against Japanese challenger Shohei Omori in a rematch at the 8,000-seat Edion Arena in Osaka tomorrow with the goal of proving he’s no one-hit wonder.

Tapales, 25, intends to do a repeat performance on Omori whom he stopped at 1:35 of the second round in Kyoto in December 2015. The Tubod, Lanao del Norte, southpaw dropped Omori thrice in the first round then floored him again with a right to the head in the second. Omori, however, wouldn’t stay down and continued to battle but referee Lou Moret stepped in to halt the carnage.

When Tapales trounced Omori, his idol and former two-time world champion Gerry Peñalosa was at ringside. Tomorrow, Peñalosa will be at ringside once more to inspire Tapales. Also in the arena will be his mother Maria who played a key role in Tapales’ recovery from two knockdowns in the fifth round to stop Pungluang Sor Singyu in the 11th for the WBO crown in Thailand last July. After a shaky fifth round, Tapales’ mother got up from her seat to talk to the fighter in his corner, reminding him to stay focused, pray to God for strength and make the sign of the cross. Tapales listened to his mother and shook off the cobwebs in his head to deck Pungluang in the next round then went on to wrest the title.

Tapales hasn’t lost in three outings in Japan and plans to extend his unbeaten streak. Omori has bounced back from the defeat to Tapales to score three straight knockouts with Filipino Rocky Fuentes his latest victim. Another Japanese fighter was supposed to be Tapales’ first challenger last Dec. 30 but the fight was cancelled when Takuma Inoue fractured his right hand in training camp. Omori’s backers reportedly offered Tapales a $150,000 purse for the rematch. It’s a huge upgrade from the $37,000 paycheck that Tapales got for facing Pungluang.

At least 16 former Filipino world champions were dethroned in their first title defense and Tapales is determined not to join the cast of one-hit wonders. The list includes Roberto Cruz, Morris East, Sonny Boy Jaro, Eric Jamili, Bobby Berna, Pedro Adigue, Rene Barrientos, Joma Gamboa, Manny Melchor, Frank Cedeno, Rico Siodora, Eric Chavez, Florante Condes, Bernabe Villacampo, Dondon Sultan and Joselito Rivera.

Tapales left for Osaka last Monday weighing nine pounds over the limit. But yesterday, philboxing.com web editor Dong Secuya said Tapales was only three over and saw no problems making 118 at the noontime weigh-in in the Monterey Grasmere Hotel today. “Marlon looks good,” said Secuya who’s in Osaka. “He’s not overconfident and expects Omori to improve but he wants another knockout win. Gerry (Peñalosa) expects another knockout victory for Marlon.” Tapales’ manager Rex (Wakee) Salud sent this text from Osaka: “So far, so good, Marlon is in shape.” It was Salud who once described Tapales as the “new Manny Pacquiao” for his two-fisted power and exciting style.

Omori, 24, is a lefthander like Tapales and has a record of 18-1, with 13 KOs. He has registered three first round stoppages, including one over Filipino Albert Alcoy in 2013. Tapales’ record is 29-2, with 12 KOs. His only losses were to Brix Rey in Surigao City in 2009 and to Mexican David Sanchez on a majority 12-round decision in Sonora in 2013. Tapales is undefeated in his last eight outings since halting Indonesia’s Ruben Manakane in Ishikawa, Japan, in May 2013.

Chicago’s Celestino Ruiz, who worked Donnie Nietes’ fifth round stoppage of Raul Garcia to retain his WBO lightflyweight title in Bacolod last year, will be the third man in the ring.

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