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Marlon Tapales faces ‘tall’ task against Ryosuke Iwasa in NY debut

Marlon Tapales will try to move one step closer to another world title when he faces Ryosuke Iwasa for the interim IBF title at 122 pounds. Photo by Jhay Oh Otamias
Fighters Network

It’s been about two and a half years since Marlon Tapales could last call himself a world champion, and it’s a drought the Filipino banger is hoping to bring to an end.

The 27-year-old will move one step closer to that goal when he faces Ryosuke Iwasa on December 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

At stake will be the interim IBF junior featherweight title, which would put the winner in line to face IBF/WBA unified titleholder Daniel Roman. Tapales vs. Iwasa will be the opening bout of the Showtime Championship Boxing broadcast, which is headlined by the Jermall Charlo vs. Dennis Hogan fight.

“I really want to win because first of all I want to go back to being world champion again,” said Tapales (33-2, 16 knockouts) of Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte, Philippines. “So this fight is very important for me.”

Tapales had previously reigned as WBO bantamweight titleholder, climbing off the deck twice against Pungluang Sor Singyu in Thailand to win by eleventh round knockout in 2016. Before he could make a single defense, Tapales lost the title on the scales, coming in two pounds over before stopping Shohei Omori in eleven rounds, and sitting out 17 months.

Photo by Jhay Oh Otamias

Since then he has signed with Manny Pacquiao’s MP Promotions and fought three times over the past 14 months, winning all three by stoppage. The Iwasa fight will be his third straight in the United States. Tapales says he saw Iwasa (26-3, 16 KOs) in February, when he fought Cesar Juarez to a ten round technical decision win on the same card at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles where Tapales defeated Fernando Vargas Parra by fifth round stoppage.

Iwasa, 29, of Kashiwa, Japan had won the IBF junior featherweight title in 2017, stopping compatriot Yukinori Oguni in six rounds, but lost it in his second title defense the following year on a close decision to TJ Doheny.

Tapales says he doesn’t know much about Iwasa, other than that they’re both southpaws, and that Iwasa is three inches taller at 5’7”.

“It’s hard because he is taller than me but I will do everything to get nearer and hit him,” said Tapales.

Head trainer Rodel Mayol, himself a former WBC junior flyweight champ, admits that Iwasa’s tall, counter-punching style is one that Tapales has trouble with, but they intend to get around that with a smart game plan.

“Marlon is more experienced than Iwasa but he can’t be over-confident for this fight,” said Mayol, who says it’s a “50-50 fight”. 

“He needs to be aggressive to dominate Iwasa and needs a lot of endurance so good conditioning is the key.”

Sean Gibbons, matchmaker for MP Promotions, says that Roman, who withdrew from a Sept. 13 date against mandatory challenger Murodjon Akhmadaliev with a shoulder injury, will likely make that defense instead on Super Bowl weekend in February, after which, the IBF will order their own mandatory. 

“Marlon knows what he’s doing, he’s in beast mode, he wants to be a champion. I’m never concerned with Marlon,” said Gibbons, who is also overseeing other Filipino boxers like Jerwin Ancajas, John Riel Casimero and Jhack Tepora.

Tapales says he’s never been to New York before but is excited to fight in the Big Apple because he has a cousin and friend who live there.

“I want them to watch my fight,” said Tapales.

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected]