March 02, 2024

No dream ending: Marlon Tapales loses unification bid after late KO by Naoya Inoue

No dream ending: Marlon Tapales loses unification bid after late KO by Naoya Inoue
Top Rank/ESPN

Marlon Tapales’ quest for history won’t have a happy ending—crushed by The Monster that is Naoya Inoue.

Aiming to become the first fighter ever in the 122 kg weight class to unify all four world titles—WBA, IBF, WBC, and WBO—in the four-belt era, Tapales just couldn’t do much against Inoue, widely regarded as among the best pound-for-pound fighters in all of boxing.

The end came early in the 10th round, with The Monster pressing the action and landing crushing shots to the head and body of Tapales, who could do nothing but get on his knees in surrender. He was ultimately counted out while on all fours, unable to continue against an opponent that just looked far superior in every way.

The fight started slow and with a noticeable lack of action as both Inoue and Tapales waged a tactical battle, with the Filipino putting up an impenetrable shell and the Japanese exercising caution.

Action started picking up by the fourth round as The Monster began opening up and The Nightmare returning the favor. But Inoue won the round late, sending Tapales on his knees with a late flurry to the delight of the pro-Inoue crowd. The Filipino, though, survived the initial onslaught, partly because the knockdown came with just under 20 seconds to go in the fourth.

It was survival mode from thereon out for the fighting pride of Mindanao, with Inoue using his blinding speed and combination punching to routinely put Tapales on his heels and on the retreat. To his credit, the 7-1 underdog kept soldiering own, absorbing Inoue’s bombs and landing a few of his own.

But, after 10 rounds, it was clear Tapales couldn’t take anymore of Inoue’s power shots that got more frequent, more precise, and more powerful as the fight continued.

With the win, Inoue has now become the first man to unify all four belts in the super bantamweight division. He also became only the second fighter ever in history after Terence Crawford to become a two-division four-belt unified champion in the modern era.