WORLD Boxing Association (WBA) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) super bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales and his team arrived in Japan ahead of his world title unification bout with World Boxing Organization (WBO) and World Boxing Council (WBC) super bantamweight king Naoya Inoue on Dec. 26, 2023 at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo.
Tapales arrived in Tokyo with his trainer Ernel Fontanilla, Sanman Promotions chief executive officer JC Manangquil and Viva Promotions head Brendan Gibbons on Dec. 19.
The 31-year-old Tapales is in for the toughest fight of his career against one of best pound-for-pound fighters in Inoue.
Tapales won the IBF and WBA belts after a split decision win over previously undefeated Murodjon Akhmadaliev on April 8 in Texas.
After unifying all the titles in the bantamweight division, Inoue decided to move up a division higher. He was immediately given a world title shot against Stephen Fulton, who then held the WBO and WBC straps.
The 30-year-old Inoue disposed of Fulton in eight rounds in Japan.
Inoue could unify the belts in the super bantamweight division with a win over Tapales, making him a two-division unified champion.
Tapales is 37-3 with 19 knockouts, while Inoue is 25-0 with 22 knockouts.
Meanwhile, John Paul Gabunilas is seeing action in the same card.
Gabunilas is taking on undefeated Japanese prospect Kanamu Sakama.
Gabunilas wants to bounce back after suffering a devastating first round technical knockout defeat to Miel Fajardo.
Sakama, in the meantime, is fresh from an eighth round stoppage of Ryu Horikawa.
Gabunilas, who fights out of the ARQ Gym in Cebu, is 10-2 with seven knockouts, while Sakama is 8-0 with seven knockouts. / EKA