The shadow of Manny Pacquiao looms large over all boxers from the Philippines.
WBA and IBF super bantamweight champion Marlon ‘Nightmare’ Tapales 37-3 (19) knows this better than most.
The 31-year-old Filipino southpaw will take on the biggest challenge of his career when he meets WBC and WBO 122-pound champion Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue 25-0 (22) at Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan on Boxing Day.
“I am grateful to have this opportunity to have my own name on history in the Philippines,” Tapales told Sky Sports.
“There will be a lot of people watching this fight in the Philippines. I have a lot of friends and I know so many people that like boxing.
“Manny will be watching. He gave me advice on how to fight and how to beat him. Hopefully I can execute it.
“I want to show them the real Tapales and show them I belong as a top contender and can fight the best of the best, pound-for-pound. If I have a chance to knock him out, I will grab for it but I can’t predict what round.”
Japanese superstar Inoue, 30, is a short-priced favourite to win the bout after claiming world honours in four separate weight classes.
Tapales says he is unfazed by his opponent’s reputation.
“I’m not intimated by his record. I have a good record too and experience of fighting for a long time in boxing,” Tapales said.
“I have a style and power to knock my opponents out. If I have a chance, I will go for it. We have trained a lot of strategies which I will keep secret as we have been working hard for this fight.”
Inoue said he would not be satisfied with anything less than a knockout.
“It will be a match that will unify the four world titles, so I want to show overwhelming strength and win in such a match. I want to show you a KO finish,” Inoue said.
Unlike most boxers, Inoue enjoys fighting southpaws. The angles, he says, give him more time to think.
“It’s a match against a southpaw, who I’m good at,” Inoue said. “I feel like being a southpaw allows me to do what I want to do better than with a right-handed boxer.
“It gives you time to think. It gives you pause. When you’re on the right, it’s all about the exchange of leads. That’s why the offence and defence is so fast. It’s a return of returning when it’s already here, and giving it back when it’s coming. But as a southpaw, you have a lot of time to think because your front hands collide. That’s how I feel.”
Tapales says he is not just showing up to make up the numbers.
“I want to win and I can’t do that if I just defend. I would really fight it out,” Tapales said. “I feel well and in prime condition. I’m ready and excited to meet him on top of the ring.”