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Tapales embraces pressure ahead of Inoue fight

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Marlon Tapales is probably one of those rare fighters who would set aside pride and willingly admit feeling the weight of a looming unification fight.

Instead, Tapales, holder of the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association super bantamweight titles, embraces the nervousness and pressure that comes with trying to unify against one of the world’s top pound-for-pound boxers.

Just weeks away from his showdown with Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue – who owns the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization versions of the championship – the Filipino southpaw said he will use such feelings as fuel in his quest for the big victory.

“Nervousness is something that’s always there,” Tapales (37-3, with 19 KOs) told scribes who visited his training camp here Monday afternoon at the invitation of his promoter, the veteran but youthful JC Mananquil of Sanman Boxing.

“If there’s no nervousness, there’s no challenge. It means your opponent is a nobody,” added Tapales, who will lock horns with the unbeaten Inoue (25-0, with 22 KOs) on Dec. 26 at the Ariake Arena, Koto, Japan.

One simply cannot blame a fighter for having the creeps against a wrecking ball that’s Inoue, whose heavy hands, impeccable timing and superb technique have resulted in 22 of his opponents not making it to the final bell.

But the same wariness is the key thing that motivates the Tubod, Lanao del Norte boxer to work extra hard. On Monday at the famed Shape-Up Gym here, he sparred 10 hard rounds, four against former world title challenger Vincent Astrolabio, and three each versus Pete Apolinar and Kevin Aseniero.

Throughout the afternoon training session, Tapales looked more sharp and confident than nervous and pressured – not bad for a heavy underdog.

Meanwhile, the 30-year-old Japanese aptly nicknamed “Monster” is an overwhelming favorite to emerge as unified champion.

The odds, however, are something Tapales normally brushes off.

“In my fights I’ve always been the underdog, so it’s not new to me,” Tapales continued. “I’ve been fighting and surviving since my youth so being an underdog, it’s nothing to me.”

Again, for Tapales, it’s nervousness that