Crisdenmar Dela Cruz

A new generation of Filipino boxers is on the rise.

Fresh from a tough 2022 with no Filipino world title holder, Marlon "Nightmare" Tapales pulled off a shocker at Boeing Center at Tech Port, San Antonio, Texas, after dethroning the undefeated Murodjon Akhmadaliev to nab the IBF and WBA Super bantamweight title, Sunday.

Photo Courtesy of Bad Left Hook

Faced with a heavy underdog and the crowd was in Akhmadaliev's favor, the fighting proud of Cagayan De Oro, Philippines, boxed his way to victory by connecting an early combination to the head and body of his superstar Uzbekistani opponent, who struggled to find his rhythm, that convinced the judges, awarding a 115-113, 115-113, 110-118 triumph.

With this win, the Philippines now bears two major title holders as Melvin Jerusalem grabbed the WBO minimumweight belt and gave Philippine boxing a rousing start to the year with an impressive second-round knockout over Masataka Taniguchi of Japan last January.

The last time a Filipino unified the world titles was in April 2013, in the name of Brian "Hawaiian Punch" Viloria, who held the WBA and WBO flyweight titles before losing to Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico.

"It is really big to me because this is for my career and my family," said Tapales in the ring following the biggest win of his career. "I worked really hard for this fight," he added.

Tapales dictated the tempo in the early to mid-rounds as he took advantage of the slow start of his opponent and used a high-energy attack and a stinging overhand counterpunch that seemingly sharpened the unified champ's late-game antics.

Akhmadaliev, a late-rounder fighter, found his rhythm in the final rounds of the bout and got the better of the exchanges as he nearly knocked down the Filipino southpaw, but Tapales made sure he will have the last laugh as he scored effective jabs and straight punches that earned the judges' nods for a split-decision win.

The "Nightmare" Tapales improved to 37-3 (19KOs), getting his fourth straight victory, while the Uzbek southpaw, who fell to 11-1 (8KOs), ended the three-year reign in the 122-lb division.

With the win, Tapales now carved the opportunity to become the first Filipino undisputed title holder as Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Sports boxing promoter, announced before the match that the winner of this bout will fight the winner of the July 25th Stephen Fulton-Naoya Inoue WBC and WBO super bantamweight title fight.

Edited by Jostle Doen Pilayre