Inoue breaks down Tapales to become undisputed super bantam king

Dino Maragay - Philstar.com
Inoue breaks down Tapales to become undisputed super bantam king
Japan's WBC and WBO super bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (left) fights with Philippines' WBA and IBF super bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (right) during their four-belt world super bantamweight title unification match at Tokyo's Ariake Arena on December 26, 2023.
Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP

MANILA, Philippines – For 10 rounds, Marlon Tapales tried his darn best to weather the super typhoon that is Naoya Inoue.

But Tapales could only do so much, and despite his notable skill and effort to slip, block or parry Inoue’s best shots, still succumbed to the Japanese sensation’s power in the 10th round of their super bantamweight unification bout Tuesday night at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan.

In a remarkable demonstration of punching power and patience, Inoue sent Tapales down in the fourth round, kept the Filipino champion on the defensive, then eventually broke him down in the 10th to become the unified world 122-pound champion.

“The Monster” thus added the WBA and WBO straps previously held by Tapales to the WBC and IBF belts Inoue himself put on the line in an impressive performance that capped off what’s been an amazing year for one of the world’s top pound-for-pound stars.

Inoue asserted himself from the opening bell by being the aggressor against Tapales, who upset Uzbekistan's Murodjon Akhmadaliev by split decision in April to win the IBF and WBA titles.

But Tapales proved to be a tough nut to crack with his defense and durability. The Filipino either blocked or dodged some of Inoue’s shots, but many of the Japanese star’s power blows still came through.

The home fighter rocked Tapales with a left hook to the face in the closing seconds of the fourth round then peppered him with a flurry as the Filipino took a knee for the mandatory eight-count. Tapales made it through the round and made a good account of himself since, standing his ground against Inoue while getting his moments with some counter straight lefts and body shots.

But the end inevitably came in the 10th canto as Inoue — the fight’s overwhelming favorite — cracked Tapales with a smashing overhand right to the head that sent his foe down for good.

Inoue, who took his record to 26-0 with 23 KOs, thus becomes only the second man to unify all four world titles in two different weight classes.

American Terence Crawford became the first after beating compatriot Errol Spence for all the welterweight belts in July.

The 30-year-old Inoue completed his rampage through the bantamweight division in December last year, becoming the first undisputed world champion at the weight in half a century before vacating his titles.

He needed just two fights to become the super bantamweight division's first-ever undisputed champion.

He beat American Stephen Fulton in July in his debut at the weight to claim the WBC and WBO belts.

Inoue has won world titles in four different weight divisions, having also triumphed at the light flyweight and super flyweight classes.

He knocked out England's Paul Butler in December last year to become the first undisputed bantamweight world champion since Panama's Enrique Pinder in 1972.

He also became only the ninth undisputed world champion since the four-belt era began in 2004, and the first in the bantamweight division.

For his part, Tapales, also a former champion at bantamweight, saw his record drop to 37-4 with 19 KOs. – With a report from AFP

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