Wladimir Klitschko defends his WBA and IBF heavyweight belts, plus the minor WBO and IBO versions,against Alex Leapai of Australia in Oberhausen, Germany, on Saturday. Most are expecting another routine win for the Ukrainian in his 25th world championship fight. Here are five things to know about the bout:
The challenger: 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 the WBO mandatory challenger, and the Samoan-born fighter is determined to rise to the challenge of taking on Klitschko. “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. Australia's first world heavyweight title challenger in 106 years has 24 knockouts in 30 victories, with four defeats and three draws since turning professional in 2004.
The challenge: At 6-foot-6 (1.98 meters), the 37-year-old Klitschko will tower over the 6-foot (1.83-meter) Leapai, while he also enjoying a reach advantage of six inches (17 centimeters). His record is formidable, with 52 knockouts from 61 wins, and just three defeats, the last of which was 10 years ago. Klitschko's last fight, in October, was a unanimous decision victory over previously undefeated WBA “regular” champion Alexander Povetkin in Moscow.
Motivation: 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 told The Australian. “You know, Theresa was pregnant with my son, Alex. She was eight months pregnant when I went in. And that was really hard for me.” Prison had a lasting effect. Leapai changed his ways after missing the birth of his son. Klitschko is not the first challenge he'll have faced.
Determination: The Ukrainian says he won't underestimate Leapai. “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.” Leapai for his part says 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. We don't know when we're gonna get this chance again. So I'll be honest, this guy has to rip my heart out.”
Distraction: The news conference on Tuesday was disrupted when former heavyweight champ Shannon Briggs intruded and demanded a fight against Klitschko in the United States. Leapai was incensed by the disrepsect, 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 left hospitalized by Klitschko's elder brother, Vitali, after their WBC title bout 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, saying “I have never had to hold back my opponent at a press conference before.” – Sapa-AP