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Australian Alex Leapai predicts he will shock Wladimir Klitschko and world

Wladimir Klitschko defends his WBA and IBF heavyweight belts Saturday, and most expect another routine victory for the Ukrainian in his 25th world-championship fight. Alex Leapai predicts he will overturn those expectations.

Heavyweight boxing world champion Vladimir Klitschko of Ukraine will face Alex Leapai of Australia, right, on April 26, 2014 at Oberhausen, Germany. Ina Fassbender / Reuters
Heavyweight boxing world champion Vladimir Klitschko of Ukraine will face Alex Leapai of Australia, right, on April 26, 2014 at Oberhausen, Germany. Ina Fassbender / Reuters

Wladimir Klitschko defends his WBA and IBF heavyweight belts on Saturday night in Oberhausen, Germany, and most expect another routine victory for the Ukrainian in his 25th world-championship fight. Alex Leapai predicts he will overturn those expectations.

The Australian, who was driving a lorry six months ago, said he can bring down the towering champion, who has a significant size advantage, standing 1.98 metres to Leapai’s 1.83m.

“The whole world will know the bloke, who was a truck driver six months ago, who walked in and won the world championship,” the father of six told The Australian newspaper.

The relatively unknown Leapai caused a sensation last November by beating the previously undefeated Russian Denis Boytsov, despite being hampered by a calf injury.

He became a mandatory challenger and the Samoa-born fighter is determined to rise to the challenge of taking on Klitschko.

He is Australia’s first world heavyweight title challenger in 106 years and has 24 knockouts in 30 victories, with four defeats and three draws, since turning professional in 2004. Leapai is drawing on the memory of his six-month prison sentence in 2005 for assaulting bouncers in Brisbane and the first night he spent at the Woodford Correctional Centre.

“The day I went to prison was the worst day of my life,” Leapai said. “You know, my wife, Theresa, was pregnant with my son, Alex. She was eight months pregnant when I went in and that was really hard for me.”

He said he is determined to make the most of his shot at making history.

“Call me a dreamer, whatever. Australia’s never had a heavyweight champion,” he said. “We don’t know when we’re going to get this chance again. So I’ll be honest, this guy has to rip my heart out.”

Klitschko and his brother, Vitali, who has retired from boxing to become a politician, have made a habit of quietly dismissing nearly all challengers. Wladimir, 37, who has not lost in 10 years and has a record of 61-3 with 52 knockouts, said he would not underestimate his challenger.

“He has shown strong punching power and a lot of heart,” Klitschko said. “He can take a punch and feels confident in the role of the underdog.”

Klitschko’s last fight, in October, was a unanimous decision over the undefeated WBA champion Alexander Povetkin, in Moscow.

Aside from Leapai’s interesting story, the most notable event before the fight was when Shannon Briggs, the American heavyweight, invaded the news conference and demanded Klitschko fight him in the United States.

Leapai was incensed by the disrespect, particularly when Briggs called him a “bum”, and he threatened to fight the American then and there, only for Noel Thornberry, his trainer, to dissuade him.

Briggs, who was hospitalised after the WBC title bout with Vitali Klitschko in 2010, eventually left after berating the fighters for some time. Klitschko seemed to enjoy the interruption, and joked that he had to restrain Leapai.

“I have never had to hold back my opponent at a news conference before,” he said.

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