No heart blockage for Tapales

Ed C. Tolentino

Ed C. Tolentino

Filipino fight fans are quite

familiar with Punluang Sor Singyu. Some four years ago, the Thai mauler dropped by at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City to shop for a world title. He picked up the World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight belt (118 lbs.) by dispatching local favorite AJ Banal in nine rounds.

Banal actually got off to a good start until he withered from the immense pressure and flurries of Sor Singyu. In the ninth stanza, a bloodied Banal went down on his knees and never recovered. Banal cried unabashedly in his corner as Sor Singyu celebrated his unexpected triumph.

Talk about a getting a taste of his own medicine. Defending the WBO bantamweight title, this time at his home turf in Ayutthaya City Park, Thailand, Sor Singyu seemed on his way to adding another Filipino to his list of victims when he dropped challenger Marlon Tapales twice in the fifth round with debilitating body shots.

Tapales’ fate seemed sealed, but the Lanao del Norte native refused to give up on his dream.  He covered his midsection with his elbows to frustrate Sor Singyu’s body assaults. In the sixth round, Tapales caught Sor Singyu at close range with a wicked right hand that dropped the Thai champ. Sor Singyu was able to get back on his feet, but he left his confidence on the canvas.

By the eighth round, Sor Singyu looked like a different fighter. He was no longer hounding, pressuring Tapales and was instead backtracking. Sensing that the champion was running low on fuel, Tapales came out head-hunting in the 11th round. He pursued the retreating Thai champ and nailed him with a vicious right hand. Sor Singyu stumbled backwards and a follow-through left from Tapales deposited him to the canvas. Referee Ramon Pena counted out Sor Singyu and declared Tapales the new WBO champion with some 30 seconds left in the round.

With the victory, Tapales (29-2, 12 knockouts) became the latest Filipino boxer to win the bantamweight crown, following in the footsteps of Luisito Espinosa (1989), Gerry Penalosa (2007) and Nonito Donaire Jr. (2011). Tapales also became the first Filipino to beat Sor Singyu, the Thai having previously repulsed the likes of Eranio Semillano, Romnick Magos, Rey Migrino, Elmar Francisco, Danilo Pena, Paul Apolinario, Freddie Martinez, and Marvin Tampus.

Tapales’ ascension to the throne was fueled by pure heart and a mean punch. Not a few thought he was finished when he went down in the fifth stanza, but the fighter in Tapales refused to just roll over and play dead. Knowing fully well that he could be robbed of a decision if the fight goes the distance, Tapales went all-out in the 11th round and chased Sor Singyu with the tenacity of shark going after a worn-out prey.

Suffice it to say, there was no heart blockage for Tapales, and this explains why he is now a world champion. As Sugar Ray Leonard once said, “you have to know you can win. You have to think you can win. You have to feel you can win.”  Even with the twin knockdowns, losing never crossed Tapales’ mind against Sor Singyu. He wanted to become a world champion really bad.

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