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Marlon Tapales shakes off ring rust, scores KO win in LA

Photo by Jhay Oh Otamias

Late Saturday night, about three hours after the “main event” hit the ring, former world titleholder Marlon Tapales made his return to the ring in front of mostly empty seats at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

It was THE walkout fight on what Steve Kim referred to as the “walkout card”, but Tapales (32-2, 15 knockouts) wasn’t there for anything other than to shake off rust. The 26-year-old from Lanao del Norte province in the Philippines was uneven at times, swinging wildly to get rid of Fernando Vargas Parra before catching up to him at the end of round five with a right hook that put the Mexican journeyman down. Parra (34-15-3, 23 KOs) retired in his corner, awarding the victory to Tapales.

Tapales had been working with new trainer Rodel Mayol (himself a former world titleholder from the Philippines) since November, and had trained alongside him years ago when Mayol was an active fighter. Mayol says he knows Tapales’ strengths and weaknesses, and is in the best position to help bring him back to prominence.

“For me he needs one more fight because he’s a little bit rusty,” said Mayol, when asked when Tapales is ready to get back into the title picture.

“One more fight to build his confidence, and we’d have more time to correct some of his bad habits and mistakes in the fight.”

Mayol adds that he’d like to see more combinations from his fighter, but it’s not a bad position to work from.

Photo by Jhay Oh Otamias

“He needs to get the right distance of the opponent but he did a very good job last night dominating his opponent and (being) aggressive and controlling the fight,” said Mayol. “But if he fights a world champion opponent it’s not gonna be like that.”

Tapales previously held the WBO bantamweight title, knocking out the Filipino beater Panya Uthok (who fights as Pungluang Sor Singyu) in July of 2016, but sat out nine months and missed weight for his first defense against Shohei Omori, rallying for an eleventh round stoppage of the fighter he had knocked out two over a year earlier but losing his belt in the process.

Tapales sat out 17 months before entering the ring for a cup of coffee against the fragile Goodluck Mrema, knocking him out in 130 seconds in September of 2018.

Now promoted by MP Promotions, Tapales weighed in at 123.5 pounds for this fight, and will be campaigning as a junior featherweight. Tapales will remain in LA to train with Mayol for his next fight.

Marlon Tapales vs Fernando Vargas Parra

Posted by Rodel Batang Mandaue Mayol on Sunday, February 17, 2019

The return of Tapales wasn’t the only highlight of the card to happen after the cameras had shut off: Deejay Kriel won the IBF strawweight title with a twelfth round, come-from-behind knockout of Carlos Licona. Kriel (15-1-1, 7 KOs) was down 108-101 on two cards and up 105-104 on the third heading into the twelfth, when he scored three knockdowns to force the stoppage at the 2:16 mark. 

Licona (14-1, 2 KOs) was removed from the ring on a stretcher but trainer Robert Garcia said the Westminster, California resident is “doing good” after the fight.