Naoya Inoue vs Marlon Tapales fight analysis
The name for the day after Christmas will be more fitting than ever this year as Naoya Inoue (25-0, 22KO) and Marlon Tapales (37-3, 19KO) do battle on Boxing Day.
These super-bantamweight world champions will exchange leather instead of gifts on this festive holiday, but only one will receive the best present of all.
The Japanese “Monster” puts his WBC and WBO belts on the line in Tokyo while the Filipino “Nightmare” offers his WBA and IBF straps, in a clash that will crown one of these unified titleholders as the undisputed super-bantamweight champion.
Inoue is aiming to become a two-weight undisputed champion, having cleaned up at bantamweight in December last year, stopping Paul Butler in 11 meant he added the last piece of the puzzle – Butler’s WBO belt – to become undisputed at 118lbs.
30-years-old from Kanagawa, Japan, the pocket powerhouse has bulldozed his way through the light-fly, super-fly, bantam and super-bantamweight divisions, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.
The unbeaten four-weight world champion has a fearsome stat of 19 knockouts from 22 championship contests, which includes victories over 12 world champions.
Despite this proven form, questions were asked whether The “Monster’s” power could keep rising through the higher weights and he answered that conclusively with an eighth-round knockout of unified champ Stephen Fulton in his super-bantamweight debut in July.
He earned his WBC and WBO belts that night which he now trades with the WBA and IBF champ, Tapales, who also started at light-flyweight and is currently operating in his fifth weight category.
Although the 31-year-old Filipino has been fighting up at the 122lbs division for over five years, he doesn’t possess any size or reach advantages, in fact Inoue is an inch taller at 5’ 5” with a reach advantage too.
In the southpaw’s last fight, he defeated Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev via split decision in what was a surprise upset win for many. He defeated the unbeaten unified world titlist in San Antonio, America in what was the champ’s fourth defence.
A two-weight world champion, Tapales has only been beaten once above 120lbs, so he is quite familiar and formidable at the weight.
The Sanman Boxing Promotions’ star is powerful and possesses one-punch KO power. Prior to going 12-rounds with Akhmadaliev, he knocked out three opponents in a row within two rounds – only one managed to last past four minutes with him.
Nine of his last 10 victories have ended by knockout – seven within five rounds and less. Up at bantam and super-bantam, Tapales is a real force.
But Inoue is marching his way forward to boxing greatness, already one of just nine men to become undisputed in a four-belt era, and looking to become the next two-weight undisputed champion after Terence Crawford became the first to achieve this earlier in the year.
The “Monster” is an overwhelming favourite at the bookies, but could Tapales pull off another upset from the away corner to produce ‘The “Nightmare” after Christmas’?
Tapales is a sharp, powerful, awkward southpaw, with excellent timing and accuracy. He flicks his jabs upwards from his hip in a Philly Shell stance, while his backhand left is brushing under his chin.
He likes to lean in and throw big overhand lefts unexpectedly and rolls under the counter fire. He uses the shoulder roll to evade a lot of attacks and is clever and reactive enough to catch a lot on his gloves too.
His hunched posture makes him especially difficult to hit, meaning opponents have to punch down at a smaller target, but by using the Philly Shell means he is open all the while his lead right arm hangs in a sling. Someone as quick and sharp as Inoue will take full advantage of any gaps in the guard.
Especially as Inoue can land his shots from all different angles, walking opponents down into positions where he wants them to be, plus he throws in threes and fours, which is a harder to escape from when the attacks come in higher numbers.
Inoue is known for his freakish power. Type his name into Google and one of the suggested searches automates to: “Why is Naoya Inoue so powerful’.
It’s a combination of his strength, footwork, balance and speed. But also due to his ability to land strong shots cleanly from unfamiliar, unsuspecting angles. When you’re caught cold with even just a jab from Inoue, you feel the effects of it.
Tapales also has respectable power. Above 120lbs, the Filipino has scored eight knockouts from nine victories.
However, I haven’t ever seen Inoue get badly rocked before, or barely even shaken. Of course, his right eye socket was fractured by Nonito Donaire during their first, epic encounter, but the 30-year-old still went the full distance to win unanimously, proving his chin and heart in the process.
Both guys are similar in stature and strength, but Inoue is superior in every department, including strength, speed and footwork. Plus, he has a slight height and reach advantage too.
Tapales was knocked out early in his career when fighting for the Philippines flyweight title, in round six. His next knockout loss came over 10 years later to Ryosuke Iwasa, who took 11 rounds to stop him. Although both KOs came in the second half of the contests, he has been knocked down earlier in rounds three and five before.
When up against a pound-for-pound great like Inoue, Tapales is very likely to be eating canvas again in this fight.
Inoue to win by KO between rounds 4-8.