Wladimir Klitschko v Alex Leapai: Title Fight Preview
Wladimir Klitschko v Alex Leapai: Title Fight Preview
What: Heavyweight World Championship title fight between Wladimir Klitschko (Ukraine) and Alex Leapai (Australia)
When: Sunday April 27 from 6:00am AEST when undercard starts
Where: Oberhausen, Germany
How to Watch: Klitschko v Leapai is a pay-per-view broadcast though Foxtel/Optus Main Event. Price: $49.95 AUD
It's the first time in 106 years an Australian – albeit a Samoan-born one - has lined up for a shot at the World Heavyweight title. But Leapai will have to do it the hard way against Klitschko, who has the edge over his opponent in age, weight, reach and experience. It's no surprise then, that Leapai has been likened to Sylvester Stallone's famous Rocky Balboa character, for as far as underdogs go in 2014, there's none greater than the Lionheart from Logan.
In years gone by the Heavyweight World Title would be the biggest show in town, but times have changed and the build-up to this encounter had been somewhat muted. That was until Tuesday's press conference, when Shannon Briggs stormed in to the room at the Dusseldorff Intercontinental Hotel, demanding to know why Klitschko wasn't fighting him.
"Klitschko, why you fighting this bum and not me," Briggs yelled. "You ain't a real champion, you're a fabricated champion. Why you so scared of me?"
Klitschko and Leapai were momentarily brought together by the scene and as Briggs tore off his shirt, Leapai went to fight him there and then. "You and me now bro – let's get it on," declared Leapai as security removed 42-year-old Briggs from the room.
The Bigger Picture - Klitschko
The fight is occurring against the backdrop of the biggest political crisis to hit Klitschko's native Ukraine since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. And, Klitschko is right at the centre of the storm, as older brother Vitali could become Ukraine's next president at elections to be held on May 25.
As we've seen over the last few months, the revolution in the streets of Kiev ultimately led to Russian forces taking control of Crimea from Ukraine. With the Russians agitating on several fronts and a potential war looming as Vladmir Putin's army threatens to invade, Klitschko is viewing this fight as the most important of his career.
"How can I even think about boxing when my fellow countrymen and women are being murdered in the streets of Kiev?" said Klitschko in an interview with the UK Daily Mail.
"It is so terribly sad. I want to pay my respects to those tortured and beaten up, to those put in prison and to those who have been killed. They died as heroes.
"It is the most important fight of my entire career.
"I'm expecting the whole of Ukraine to want me to win for our country. "
The Bigger Picture – Leapai
Leapai says this fight is the perfect opportunity to be an example for his six children and demonstrate one can truly turn their life around. A few years ago, Leapai served a six-month jail sentence in Brisbane for assaulting four bouncers. Now he has the chance to become one of the world's most recognisable athletes.
"I've had a pretty rough past — drugs alcohol and prison, but we can all change," Leapai told Foxsports. "To hear it from the world champion, to class me as another Rocky Balboa and even Cinderella Man, my message is — I want to show all the kids we all get knocked down but we just have to get back up. You have to make the right choices now, and if you make the right choice you’ll go a long way."
How They Compare:
Record: 61-3, 51 Kos
Record: 30-4-3, 24 KOs
Where The Fight Will Be Won
Klitschko has been undefeated in almost a decade but that hasn't stopped the critics lining up. Supporters may regard him as a brilliant boxing tactician but those on the other side of the fence reckon he's got a glass chin and has only won due to a lack of talent competing against him.
Klitschko has given them ammunition for this view. The Ukrainian has lost on three occasions via TKOs through solid hits to the jaw. This is where Leapai may have a chance of producing the upset of the century, as the Australian has genuine heavyweight hitting power and could expose Klitschko's vulnerable chin. The problem is Leapai has to get in close enough to land the hooks and upper-cuts that are his primary weapon. Yet, with Klitscho coming in at 6'6 and Leapai at 6'0, the champion has a longer reach and has the ability to hold a shorter opponent at bay.
Getting close to Klitschko is only half the battle. A lot of the criticism surrounding the Ukrainian centres around his tendency to lean on opponents - using his size advantage to jab and hold/push them down - rather than winning through his own undisputed talent. It's a handy technique taught to him by Emanuel Steward, but some believe it's also symptomatic of a fear his jaw may be exposed. As a result, if an opponent gets into a position to land that killer punch, Klitschko tends to lean on them, forcing them to carry his weight and therefore tiring them out.
Although many have written off Leapai he does have a chance. But, to get in close enough to do damage he has to work his way inside Klitschko, avoiding the jabs and the Ukrainian's powerhouse straight right. That won't be an easy task in itself and if Leapai does get into that position, he has to avoid the Klitschko lean. Leapai was beaten by Kevin Johnson just two years ago and Klitschko is in another class entirely here in terms of firepower, so the odds are stacked against Leapai. But in sport, fairytales do happen and if the Samoan-born Aussie lands a Hail Mary punch, the world may be hailing a new Rocky.