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Tapales buckles down to work

Defending champion Marlon Tapales is back in the gym – in sparring mode – eager to whip himself into fine in time for the first defense of the World Boxing Organization bantamweight crown on Dec. 30 in Tokyo.

Already lined up for Tapales at the Wakee Salud Gym in Cebu City are John Neil Tabanao, Adonis Aguello and Marco Demecillo as he prepares to stake the WBO 118-lb title against unbeaten Takuma Inoue at the Korakuen Hall.

Making sure Tapales does everything right and on schedule is top trainer Brix Flores, who is being helped out in training by tactician Fernando Ocon, a long-time friend of the world champion.

Tapales, 24, had won the WBO title last July with a dramatic 11th round knockout of Pungluang Sor Singyu of Thailand in Ayutthaya.

One of just four reigning Filipino world champions, Tapales is guaranteed a purse of $140,000 for defending against the 20-year-old Inoue, who has an 8-0 record with two KOs.

Tapales, who had fought once in Japan, has a 29-2 mark with 12 KOs.

Salud, the fighter’s manager, is extremely confident of a victory.

“Marlon has got power and the skills and a fighter who’s got power is always a threat,” said Salud.