December 16th 2015 will go down as a major date in the careers of Filipino Marlon Tapales (29-2, 12) and Japan's Shohei Omori (18-1, 13). It was a day that saw Tapales drop Omori 3 times in the open round before securing a second round TKO to secure himself a world title fight, and also inflict Omori's first, and so far only loss.
Coming in to that bout Omori was seen as the new rising star of Japan, the next in the long line of great Japanese Bantamweights, such as Hozumi Hasegawa and Shinsuke Yamanaka. Tapales was seen as a hidden gem of the Philippines, but was expected to be the next victim of the fast rising Omori. Instead of it being Omori's stepping stone to world level it ended up being Tapales' coming out party and his chance to shine.
Following the win over Omori we've only seen Tapales fight once, stopping Pungluang Sor Singyu last July for the WBO title in a really sensational bout. Tapales was down twice in round 5, and looked a spent force at the end of the round, before he dropped Pungluang in round 6 and ended up securing an 11th round TKO in a remarkable comeback. Sadly that bout means that Tapales has has fought just 11 rounds in the last 12 months, and only 13 rounds in the last 24 months! That level of inactivity is pretty hard to excuse for such a talented fighter.
Although Tapales has been inactive it's not all been his fought. He was supposed to be in action last December, though saw that bout cancelled when Takuma Inoue suffered an injury forcing the cancellation of a bout the two had agreed. That bout aside though, he really needs to wonder why his team haven't kept him a little busier than he has been in recent times.
In the ring Tapales looks like a very short Bantamweight, and at just 5'4” he is certainly a shorter fighter than many of the top guys, but the crafty southpaw is a rugged and highly skilled fighter with under-rated power, a steely determination, an impressive work rate, impressive timing and excellent counter-punching. Impressive he has only lost once since 2009, and that was a razor thin loss to David Sanchez in Mexico. During that same time he has scored wins over Randy Petalcorin, Warlito Parrenas, Rey Megrino, Hayato Kimura, Omori and Pungluang. He has also been a key sparring partner in the past for Shinsuke Yamanaka and had a lot of ring time with the WBC champion, gaining valuable experience and skills from “God's Left”.
Having looked at Tapales' activity since facing Omori it's only fair to start this by looking at Omori's recent activity. Since his loss he has gone 3-0 (3) stopping Espinos Sabu, Edgar Jimenez and Rocky Fuentes, in a combined 10 rounds. Whilst he has fewer completed rounds than Tapales he has remained regularly activity with a bout every 4 months since his loss. It should also be noted that, like Tapales, he has seen a top level bout cancelled, with a contest against IBF champion Lee Haskins' being called off due to an injury to Haskins. Going back just over 24 months we have seen Omori fight 6 times, and score notable wins over Kentaro Masuda, Hirofumi Mukai and Fuentes.
At his best Omori is a heavy handed southpaw boxer-puncher. He showed his power against Kentaro Masuda in April 2015, in what was his break out win, but then seemed to fall in love with his power and neglect his boxing ability. That wasn't too much of an issue against Mukai but was a massive problem against Tapales, who countered him with ease and had a field day with Omori's recklessness. Since that loss however Omori has learned lessons and is now boxing more often, using his jab and making the most of his long and rangy frame. Whilst his 5'8” frame does give him serious advantages over many in the division the question is how much he will use it, and whether he will make it count for much here.
Prior to his loss to Tapales we really did think Omori was on his way to becoming a Japanese boxing star. Now the question is just how good is he really? Is her a chinny fighter who had been matched well on his rise before being beaten by Tapales, or was he merely caught cold and never recovered before being stopped. Few can question his heart, but his technique and durability both have serious question marks, and his ability to turn a fight around can also be questioned.
This time around we're expecting to see a very cautious Omori start slowly, box behind his jab and try to keep Tapales at range. If he can do that then he could make life difficult for the champion, who really is the much smaller man. As long as Omori can use his range and movement he stands more than a chance of avenging his defeat. On the other hand one mistake from Omori could result in him being countered by Tapales, and unravelling, as he did last time out. If we're being honest we see Omori needing to be on point for 12 rounds to win here, whilst Tapales knows that he has the power to hurt Omori and the ability to land that power. At some point during a 12 round fight you have to think Tapales will land clean, and although he's the smaller man he is a damn good boxer, and will eventually stop Omori.
The bout is an intriguing one in many ways, and is one we're really exciting by, and one where we favour the champion to score a repeat win.
The next world title fight to take place in Asia is one of the most over-looked Bantamweight title bouts in a while and sees the attention of the division turn to Thailand where a local champion makes his first mandatory defense, against a criminally under-rated contender.
The champion in question is the very experienced Pungluang Sor Singyu (52-3, 35) who will be making the second defense of the WBO Bantamweight title as he goes up against the talented and over-looked Marlon Tapales (28-2, 11) of the Philippines. Between them the men are just 50 years old but have 85 bouts and 80 wins combined!
The 26 year old champion, enjoying his second title reign, is one of the few Thai's who has got a “padded” record but shown he can hang with world class fighters. His first loss was a close one on the road in 2009, to future world title challenger Stephane Jamoye, his second was another close one on the road to Paulus Ambunda whilst his most recent was a KO loss in the US to Tomoki Kameda, his most notable bout so far. In all of those losses he proved he was a handful and had Kameda worried before the Japanese star landed one of the best body punches landed in recent years.
Whilst those losses have all been set backs he has scored notable wins over AJ Banal, in the Philippines and Ryo Akaho, to begin each of his title reigns, and also scored a recent win over Filipino Jetro Pabustan, in what was a really messy bout plagued by headclashes. Other somewhat decent wins include victories over Monico Lurente and Eden Sonsona, credible oriental level wins.
In the ring the champion is a smiling ball of aggressive energy. At 5'4” he's a tiny Bantamweight but uses his lack of height well to make a difficult target, he comes forward and he tried to break down opponents with intense pressure and accurate punching. He may not be as skilled as countrymen like Wanheng Menayothin or as powerful as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai but he's still a real nightmare and the sort of fighter who can give most Bantamweights on the planet a really nasty time in the ring.
Aged 24 the challenger will be getting his first crack at a world title but is regarded by some hardcore fans as one of the better fighters not to have won a world title. Although relatively unknown by the wider boxing fan base he already holds wins over the likes of Randy Petalcorin, Warlito Parrenas, Rey Megrino, Hayato Kimura and Shohei Omori. He was also really unlucky when he fought to a majority decision loss to David Sanchez in his most recent loss.
Tapales has been beaten twice. Once was the aforementioned defeat to Sanchez whilst the other was a 6th round TKO loss to Brix Ray back in 2009. That loss to Ray was an upset and will be a black mark on his record, however that loss came more than 7 years ago and Tapales is a far different fighter today to what he was back then, as a teenager.
In the ring Tapalese is a careful fighter with a good guard and subtle footwork however it's his timing that appears to be his greatest quality and the shots he caught Omori with last year were perfect timed lumps of dynamite. He may not have a reputation as a puncher but he certainly possess some solid bang in his left hand, a good energy in the ring and under-rated skills with some lovely speed thrown in as a bonus. There are flaws in his defense but there's enough in there to be a potential handful for anyone in the division. Interestingly he's also going to be one of the very few Bantamweights smaller than Pungluang.
In the ring we're expecting Pungluang to look to bring the pressure and then for Tapale to respond, looking catch him with counters and make the most of his danger left hook. Pungluang is tough though and given the advantage in Thailand he'll be strongly favoured to claim a decision. For Tapales to win he will likely need a KO, something he can get, but we suspect he won't here and instead Pungluang will retain by a decision in a thrilling bout that sees home advantage pay dividends for the Thai.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.