By Nick Giongco
Filipino champion Marlon Tapales is not taking any chances when he meets former victim Shohei Omori in the first defense of his World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight crown on April 23 at the Edion Arena in Osaka, Japan.
Omori (18-1 with 13 KOs) was knocked down four times by Tapales (29-2 with 12 KOs) the first time they fought in Dec. 2015 in Kyoto but has recovered by winning his next three fights all by KO.
Tapales, also 24,is fully aware of Omori’s resurgence and is not looking past his fellow southpaw when they collide in a rematch next month.
“It’s foolish to think that you’re going to beat him again because he has recovered,” said Tapales during a break in training in Cebu City.
Even Tapales’ chief handler Wakee Salud, known for steering the Penalosa brothers—Dodie Boy and Gerry—and Malcolm Tunacao to world titles, believes taking Omori lightly is dangerous.
“Omori is eager to prove that his loss to Tapales was just a fluke and we expect him to be at his best by fight night,” said Salud.
Tapales has been inactive since winning the WBO 118-lb crown via a dramatic 11th round demolition of Pungluang Sor Singyu of Thailand in July last year in Ayutthaya.
Since being stopped by Tapales, Omori, who has a three-inch height advantage at 5-7, has won three straight inside the distance, his victims including Filipino Rocky Fuentes, Espinos Sabu of Indonesia and Edgar Jimenez of Mexico.