IT took Marlon Tapales roughly nine years to win a world boxing title; today he just gave the crown away after being toppled by a phantom foe known only as the "weighing scale."
Set to defend the World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight title on Sunday opposite Japanese Shohei Omori, Tapales failed to make the 118-pound limit during the official weigh-in and was consequently stripped of the title. The fight will still push through, but under WBO rules the crown will remain vacant if Tapales wins. A victory by Omori, however, will make him the new bantamweight champion.
Tapales (29-2, 12 knockouts) is the heavy favorite going into the fight with Omori, having knocked out the Japanese in just two rounds in December 2015. It was actually the upset win over the unbeaten Omori that earned Tapales a shot at the WBO bantamweight title in July 2016 against then champion Pungluang Sor Singyu of Thailand. Tapales flattened Sor Singyu in 11 rounds to become the country's first world bantamweight champion since Nonito Donaire Jr. in 2011.
Overlooked amid Tapales' huge win over Sor Singyu was the struggle he went through to meet the 118-pound limit. In three of Tapales' last five bouts before the Sor Singyu tussle, he weighed in above the 118-pound limit. Arriving in Thailand for the Sor Singyu bout, Tapales was a pound over the weight limit and soaked himself in a sauna for hours before finally weighing in at 117 lbs. Weakened by the weight drain, Tapales almost succumbed to the body shots of Sor Singyu. Tapales was knocked down twice in the fifth round before rallying to stop the Thai in the 11th stanza.
The Sor Singyu fight should have put Tapales' camp on notice vis-a-vis the fighter's weight issue. But a series of unfortunate circumstances only aggravated the problem.
Tapales won the title in July 2016 and went inactive for nine months. Worse, Tapales' hibernation stretched through the Christmas season and the eating spree that came with the holidays definitely expanded his waistline.
Tapales should have taken at least a non-title tune-up fight to shake off the ring rust, but he arguably thought it was safe to proceed with the Omori title defense considering that he had already knocked out the guy before. Factor in the holiday season and the complacency angle and, viola, you have Tapales facing the same weight issues heading into the Omori bout.
Flipping back the pages of history, not a few Filipino world champions had fallen prey to the dreaded weighing scale. The most notable is Manny Pacquiao, who in 1999 was stripped of his world flyweight title after he failed to meet the 112-pound weight limit for a title defense against Medgoen 3k Battery. A visibly drained Pacquiao proceeded with the fight and was predictably knocked out in three rounds by 3k Battery's body blows.
Tapales' is now facing the same dire consequences for failing to meet the bantamweight limit. You can bet the rent money that Omori will zero in on Tapales' breadbasket in the hope of further weakening it. Note that even if he wins, Tapales will return home empty handed, having failed to closely monitor his weight which should be top priority for a world boxing champion.