Freeman Cebu Sports

Tapales eyes piece of glory

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Sans fanfare and away from the spotlight elite fighters usually enjoy, Filipino world title contender Marlon "Maranding Nightmare" Tapales is silently but diligently working out his way inside the four corners of the RWS Gym International.

Clammed up and without fuss as he may seem, Tapales has made his intentions loud and clear - to align himself with the top stars of the Philippine boxing constellation today.

Tapales (28-2, 11KOs), who turned 24 just two weeks ago, will be chasing after that dream when he battles defending Thai champion Pungluang Sor Singyu (52-3, 35KOs) for the WBO bantamweight championship on June 17 in Thailand.

Tapales earned a mandatory shot at Sor Singyu's throne after knocking out the previously undefeated Japanese prospect Shohei Omori in the second round during their WBO elimination bout last February 16 at the Shimazu Arena in Kyoto, Japan.

Again, the road is expected to be bumpy and rocky for Tapales fighting in a hostile territory where hometown decision is prevalent.

Cognizant of that fact, the spirited warrior from Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte vows to unleash his ultimate firepower in a bid to come up with a swift and decisive victory in what he considers the biggest fight of his life.

"This is a tough challenge for me fighting on enemy lines," said Tapales in an exclusive interview at the RWS Gym, home of several Pinoy ring champions and the very same sweat shop where the great Manny Pacquiao trained for his rematch with Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera eight years ago.

"That is why I will be going for a knockout. That's part of our game plan because if the fight goes the distance, I'm afraid that hometown decision might take its toll on me," he added.

Tapales, who is on a seven-fight winning streak with the last two via stoppage, is highly confident on his chances though, saying that challenges like this always brings out the best in him.

"I prepared hard for this fight for two and a half months already. I know I'm up against a dangerous opponent, but I firmly believe I have the skills to beat him," said Tapales, who is guaranteed a purse of $37,000 (P1.7 million). "But I must not be overly confident because as I've said, it's difficult to fight in the place of your foe."

For his trainer Fernando Ocon, himself a former champion boxer, falling victim to hometown decision is the least of his concerns.

"We're ready to go for 12 rounds. I have confidence in him that he will pull this one off in whatever manner it may be, by decision or knockout," said Ocon.

Cebu's foremost boxing impresario Rex "Wakee" Salud, who charts Tapales' career path, is also hopeful that his prized ward will finally carve his own niche in Philippine boxing.

"From the very first time I saw him fight in a boxing card in Sarangani province a few years back, I knew right away that this boy is full of talent and skills and will become a world champion someday. I just hope this will now be his moment," said Salud, who guided ex-WBC flyweight tiltist Malcolm "Eagle Eye" Tuñacao and former two-division world champion Gerry Peñalosa during their storied careers. (FREEMAN)

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