THE odds appear insurmountable, the task unforgiving and with a ten-year championship reign riding against him, it appears as if Alex Leapai has bitten off substantially more than he can chew in the shape of Wladimir Klitschko. But if you ask the driver by day, boxer by night – he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“He’s just a little bit taller than me, but he’s got a weakness and come April 26, we will expose that weakness,” Leapai said.
Irrespective of all his critics, Wladimir Klitschko (61-3, 51 KOs) is a man with very few weaknesses. Blessed with fencer-like reach and a remarkable tendency to land his overhand right, he will go down as one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time.
There is no disputing this.
Brotherhood aside, Klitschko has captured, held and defended his versions of the heavyweight championship (unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO titles) – a prize considered as one of the greatest in all sport – for the latter part of a decade.
A resume that lists undefeated prospects Alexander Povetkin, Francesco Pianeta, Mariusz Wach, alongside established veterans David Haye, Eddie Chambers as well as former champions Ruslan Chagaev, Hasim Rahman and Sultan Ibragimov cannot be scoffed at. Especially when considering their common feature on Klitschko’s record, a loss.
The reality is that Alex Leapai, 34, has never stepped into a ring with anyone that is within miles of a Klitschko brother, whether it be with 10 ounce gloves or with 16 ounces and headwear. But in a sport as systematically unique as boxing, Alex Leapai (30-4-3, 24 KOs) will attempt a moden-day version of David versus Goliath when he enters a lonely ring in Oberhausen on April 26th.
Klitschko, 38, arguably in the peak of his powers, has been on a remarkable winning streak that has border lined irrelevance, with no challenger coming close to replicating an unlikely Lamon Brewster upset in 2004 – which was later avenged – and then some.
But just like Buster Douglas and many other famous underdogs that have come and gone since him, Leapai has grasped a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with both hands and is relishing his underdog status ahead of his unlikely date with destiny.
Klitschko’s original opponent, then unbeaten Denis Boytsov took an ill-advised tune-up bout against Leapai in November and has history has shown, Leapai prevailed in an unexpected but equally satisfactory unanimous points victory.
“I’m really fired up to win this,” said Leapai to respected Australian reporter Grantlee Kieza – who has travelled with Leapai to Germany. “I’m going to prove to the world that anyone can turn their life around and be successful if they work hard and surround themselves with good people.”
“I want people in 100 years to remember that a Samoan-born Aussie came out of nowhere and beat one of the best heavyweights of all time. It’s been a long road to get to this stage but I will make sure the long ride has been worth it.”
And while Leapai’s sentiment to a degree is justified, there is no comparison to be made with Leapai’s wins over Travis Walker, Darnell Wilson and Owen Beck – to Wladimir Klitschko. But to the champion’s credit, if he was taking Leapai for granted, you would never know it.
“I have a lot of respect for Alex,” admitted Klitschko. “I haven’t seen much of him, but from the small sequences of footage I have seen, I respect what he can do.”
Even when Leapai taunted the champion with predictions of an upset second round knockout, an admirable Klitschko replied with the experience of a champion who appears to have run this race several times before.
“There’s no news. This is nothing new that I haven’t heard before that I have a glass chin. I assure you that even the toughest chin in the world can become a glass chin when the steel hammer is going to hit it.”
It’s hard to argue against the logic of a champion who appears to be a consummate professional – and while respect was offered with little to no asking – Leapai remained firm on the task at hand and spoke with vigour and optimism when asked to describe the looming task at hand.
“I am training for 12 rounds and this is Germany we are going to, it’s really hard to win there especially against this guy,” Leapai continued. “But to be honest, this is not going to go the distance.”
“I am going to knock this guy out. Klitschko is going to be hitting hard but I will be ready. I am going to go to war with this guy and he is not going to like what I am going to give him.”