THE heavyweight division in Australia is thriving, on April 27th, Australian boxing history will be made when Alex ‘Lionheart’ Leapai and Lucas ‘Big Daddy’ Browne fly the flag abroad. Leapai will challenge undisputed lineal heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko for his unified WBO/WBA/IBF/IBO world title belts in Germany. On the same night, Browne will face off with Eric Bahoeli for the vacant Commonwealth heavyweight title in England.
If Browne is successful, he will become the first Australian to win the Commonwealth heavyweight title in over 100 years. If Leapai is successful, he will become the first Australian fighter to win a legitimate version of the world heavyweight title.
Aus-Boxing spoke to nine industry insiders and got their thoughts ahead of what should be an entertaining and evenly-matched night of professional boxing.
Ben Damon, MAIN EVENT – Record: 0-2
Leapai KO 1 Klitschko: I’m a believer. There is a feeling of destiny about Alex Leapai’s trip to Oberhausen. Put me down for Leapai by knockout in the first round in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, and the biggest moment ever in Australian boxing.
Browne TKO 4 Bahoeli: Bahoeli is a big, tough bloke but Browne is bigger, tougher, more experienced and better. A Commonwealth title will help the Aussie up the rankings and continue to build on the excitement surrounding him both here and overseas.
Grantlee Kieza, Courier Mail – Record: 0-2
Leapai TKO 8 Klitschko: I will be reporting on the fight from Alex’s corner. I give him a great chance to stop the giant despite Klitschko’s 15cm height advantage and huge reach. All Alex’s sparring partners – Kali and Willis Meehan, Razvan Cojanu, Bowie Tupou, Solomon Haumono – say no one has ever hit them harder.
Alex got to being the number one ranked contender while still driving a truck eight hours a day.
For this fight he has had sixteen weeks to train full-time. He is in great physical and mental shape, bench presses 205kg in multiple reps and has a real quiet, steely determination. Look for Alex to murder Klitschko in close when the champ tries to hold.
Browne KO 5 Bahoeli: Big Daddy Browne is a hot favourite for this fight and with good reason. He’s bigger, stronger and punches harder. Undefeated in nineteen fights, Lucas has shown world class power in dismantling Richard Towers and Travis Walker and in keeping James Toney at bay.
His right hand is an absolute weapon. I can see Leapai vs. Browne in an-all Australian world title fight down the track.
Adam Wilcock, Manager/Promoter – Record: 0-2
Klitschko TKO 4 Leapai: Like all of Australia, I’d love nothing more than to see Alex win this fight. A massive ask on the biggest stage. Alex has a great team around him and has undoubted heart. But in Klitschko we are talking about a real linear champion still at the top of his game. Alex will try and sit on the champions chest to minimize the space and fight at his range, but even if he can find his way inside I don’t think it’ll be enough.
With this fight announced as being picked up on USA television by ESPN for Klitschko’s first stateside appearance in years, look for him to make a statement and finish it early. It’s only a shame that the first Australian world heavyweight title fight in 106 years hasn’t been picked up by mainstream free-to-air TV.
Browne KO Bahoeli: Lucas appears to be a star on the rise, continually improving in every performance. He’s been matched to win this by his UK based promoter, and I’d expect him to do it in style against this Canadian opponent. If he doesn’t catch him early, then he’ll find a late stoppage against Bahoeli who’s never heard the bell to end the 8th round. Lucas will be too big and too strong.
Brendan Bourke, Manager/Agent – Record: 1-1
Klitschko TKO Leapai: Alex is overmatched in every department against the great champion apart from ‘heart’ – I’m very excited about this fight and I wish my friend Noel Thornberry all the best of luck. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to pick against Klitschko but if anybody could prove me wrong it will be the pure heart and determination of Alex Leapai.
That’s why they call him ‘Lionheart’.
Browne KO Bahoeli: This is a big opportunity for Lucas Browne to be the first Australian in over 100 years to lift the Commonwealth heavyweight title. Look for Browne to walk the Canadian onto a big right-hand in the middle rounds but not before Bahoeli shows he’s got good combinations, balance, speed and power of his own.
Lincoln Hudson, Trainer – Record: 0-2
Klitschko TKO 8 Leapai: This fight is a true Cinderella story, it just goes to show that hard work and dedication has no boundaries. In saying that, I think sometimes fairy tales don’t always end the way we want. I feel Klitschko’s skills and experience will help him show why he is the best out there and why he has been at the top for the last seven to eight years.
For mine, Klitschko to win within eight rounds – either knockout or disqualification – remember we are in Germany for this one.
Browne KO Bahoeli: I think this fight has the same feeling as the Klitschko vs. Leapai fight, but the difference is I think Lucas will win and win clearly. Browne is too long and too sharp and I see an early win, also within eight rounds. Lucas will impress and I think he’ll have a huge growth spurt from the win.
Sam Labruna, Trainer – Record: 2-0
Klitschko W 12 Leapai: This fight will be great for Aussie boxing and I wish him all the best. But in saying that, I think the Aussie has a huge task ahead. I with the rest of Australia hopes he can land a big shot and bring home the belts – but I have assessed this purely on experience and past opponents – and it will be a victory to Klitschko.
Browne TKO 5 Bahoeli: It’s not personal it’s a sport and in my opinion, this fight will not pass round five or six. Bahoeli is very raw and loose, if Browne can set him up for some counter-punching it will be a great night for the Australian.
Billy Hussein, Trainer – Record: Debut
Klitschko W 12 Leapai: I’d love to see Alex Leapai score the big win for Australia and himself, but as much as my heart says Alex my head says Wladimir Klitschko. Alex boxed well to defeat Denis Boytsov in Germany last year but I think Klitschko will be too experienced and win a tough decision over twelve rounds. Alex will push him all the way.
Browne KO Bahoeli: Lucas Browne has a great chance to capture the Commonwealth heavyweight title and build momentum in his professional career. He’s doing great so far and the win will help him get to the next level. I think Browne should be too strong for Bahoeli, and will win inside the distance.
Gareth Williams, Trainer – Record: 0-2
Leapai KO Klitschko: I think Alex is a legitimate chance in this fight – he has power, heart and the will to win. Alex is definitely not turning up for a one off pay day like many other fighters who get their big shot. I am also very aware of how good Klitschko is, with his great skills, boxing techniques, intelligence and professionalism, which makes Alex’s chances well below fifty percent.
But in heavyweight boxing there are two men with brutal power and if Alex is hungrier than Klitschko, then it could be good night Wladimir.
Browne KO Bahoeli: I’ve watched many of Lucas’ fights and he is settling in and starting to become a decent boxer/puncher. Bahoeli is also a decent puncher, so this fight is very exciting. I do however believe Lucas will get the knockout, due to Bahoeli being open to the looping right-hand or right-hook.
Its a good fight for Lucas to step up to the next level, but he needs to use his feet and his jab to get close enough and then he will start finding the right-hand.
Billy Dib, former IBF featherweight champion – Record: 0-2
Klitschko W 12 Leapai: What Alex Leapai has done is a truly massive achievement. Where he is right now is a credit to the self-belief and dedication that he has shown in the last couple of years. I believe that Alex is a live underdog and am really hoping he can pull it off for the good of the sport in Australia. I hope Leapai wins by knockout, but I think it’ll be Klitschko by decision.
Browne KO Bahoeli: I think Lucas Browne is going to have too much for his opponent and am picking a mid-late stoppage. Best of luck to Lucas.
Photos: Hatton Promotions/MAIN EVENT