Wednesday 21 March 2018

Alex Leapai: I will break Wladimir Klitschko

Alex Leapai poses during a sparring session at The Corporate Box Gym on April 17, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia
Alex Leapai poses during a sparring session at The Corporate Box Gym on April 17, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia

Alex Leapai is not a name destined to roll off the tongue of even the most hardcore members of the boxing cognoscenti, but the Samoa-born 34-year-old will get his shot at the so-called richest prize in sport in Oberhausen, Germany on Saturday night.

Leapai is the latest unlikely challenger to be summoned by Wladimir Klitschko to fight for his various increasingly devalued versions of the world heavyweight title and with it the chance to write that name up with the boxing greats.

Leapai brings with him a distinctly average record of 30 wins, four losses and three draws, but earned his shot on the basis of a relatively impressive points win over the 33-fight unbeaten Denis Boytsov in Germany in November.

He also brings with him the customary belief that he is the man to end Klitschko's dominance of the division and herald a long-overdue new era by becoming the first man to beat the Ukrainian since April 2004.

He said: "People talk about how great Wladimir is and the 61 victories he has had in his career - but I on the other hand think of the fact that he has been comprehensively KO'd three times by people who cannot punch nearly as hard as me.

"I will break Wladimir and it will not be my hardest fight. He has been champion now for 10 years. He has been comfortable. But he is going to fight somebody who is hungry and determined to make history."

Leapai's comments will not give Klitschko sleepless nights, any more than the usual sighs of resignation over another evident heavyweight mismatch will deflect his belief that when he finally hangs up his gloves the sport will miss one of the most dominant champions of recent times.

It is Klitschko's misfortune that he has reigned over such an anonymous division, and he can hardly be accused of ducking any issues having swatted the challenge and the unbeaten record of spurious fellow champion Alexander Povetkin in his last fight in October.

The most damning indictment of the state of the heavyweight scene today may well be the fact that Leapai is just about as good an opponent as the champion can get.

Classy Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev is already inked in as the Ukrainian's mandatory challenger, and the likes of big-hitting American Deontay Wilder and Britons Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora are still fighters who show potential for the near-future.

Over the course of his current 19-fight reign, Klitschko has conclusively avenged his last loss, to Lamon Brewster, swatted away fellow claimants including Povetkin, Chris Byrd and Ruslan Chagaev, and seen off a slew of supposed next-big-things including David Haye and then unbeaten Calvin Brock.

Furthermore, he has sat back and watched as the only man truly capable of challenging his dominance - his older brother Vitali - has halted the momentum of other contenders such as Chris Arreola and Odlanier Solis.

Boxing history is full of stories of long-standing champions who endured the misfortune on missing out on defining eras: for all the Hagler-Hearns-Leonard-Duran series of super-fights, there have been fighters like Carlos Monzon or Joe Calzaghe who struggled to summon suitable opponents to define their outstanding reigns.

In the absence of those exceptional challenges his sport craves, Klitschko can only continue beating those brave enough to stand in front of him.

For all Leapai's understandable bravado, on Saturday night he is unlikely to remain standing there for long.

Press Association

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