Alex Leapai (L) trades blows with Russian Denis Boytsov during their November WBO Asia Pacific Heavyweight Championship fight in Germany. Photo: Martin RoseWorld heavyweight contender Alex Leapai returned to his native Samoa to be greeted by tribal chiefs excitedly shooting shotguns into the air to herald his arrival.
His doubters would be quick to suggest he borrow one for his title fight against Wladimir Klitschko on April 27 in Germany, such is the task he faces in unseating a man who has crushed all in his path in a decade of ring domination.
Leapai may still have to convince the world he can not only compete against Klitschko but knock him out. But deep down, the unheralded 34-year-old from Logan has never been more assured of his destiny.
A trip to New Zealand for the Auckland Nines earned Leapai some new and financially powerful friends. Then a stop in his island home of Samoa convinced him he cannot be stopped when the bell sounds in Oberhausen.
Leapai was greeted like a rock star on the Pacific island. He was mobbed everywhere he went and blessed by tribal chiefs, who also treated themselves by unloading a few rounds towards the sky to mark the occasion.
“It was the first time I’ve experienced anything like that. I was walking up the street and some of the chiefs were out shooting shotguns in the air. The whole village came out, I was given some blessings. It was amazing,” Leapai said.
“It was more than a rock star. I didn’t know what to expect until I got there. To see the whole of Samoa, it shows how much this fight means to them as well. I’m bringing it home for Samoa, Australia and New Zealand.”
The man known as ‘The Lionheart’ went face-to-face with Klitschko in Germany earlier in the month. Far from being overwhelmed by the 198cm giant who has lost just three of his 64 bouts, Leapai said he wanted to start the show early.
“When I saw Klitschko, I realised I’m actually fighting for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world,” Leapai said.
“The funny thing is, I kind of switched over and turned into The Hulk. I wanted to get it on, why wait, let’s get it on tonight.
“Noel Thornberry (Leapai’s trainer) told me to settle down. He (Klitschko) came across as a gentleman and I’ll show him the same respect.”
The gravity of Leapai’s fight – billed by some as the most important in the history of Australian boxing – is starting to sink in with the public.
The interview requests are flooding in and new friends, some with hefty bank accounts, are beginning to appear from the woodwork.
Thornberry will likely handle that situation with extreme care and ensure Leapai continues to knuckle down amid the increasing number of potential distractions.
Leapai spent the day at Dreamworld on Wednesday with his wife Theresa, mother Leitu and six children. It was the first time he’d ever been there, despite living less than an hour’s drive from the Gold Coast theme park.
He will undergo training camps in Sydney, New Zealand and back in Queensland before flying out for the biggest fight of his life, which will be shown on Main Event in the early hours of Sunday, April 27.