Former heavyweight title challenger Alex “The Lionheart” Leapai (30-7-3, 24 KOs) is already eying off future opponents ahead of his comeback fight against New Zealander Thomas Peato (2-5, 0 KOs) at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on 14 October. The Samoan-born heavyweight has undefeated former WBA “regular” champion Lucas “Big Daddy” Browne in his sights and says that a fight between the two of them is a natural.
“It’s a fight that needs to happen,” says Leapai, who went five rounds with longtime undisputed heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko when he challenged for the title in 2014. “It’s a big heavyweight fight in Australia and it’s something that Australians want to see. For sure, one of us is going to get knocked out.”
“Forget about war on the Korean Peninsula,” says Paul Keegan of DDP Sports Management, who promotes Leapai. “When these two fight they’ll be dropping more bombs than North Korea and the United States combined.”
Perth-based Browne won the WBA “regular” heavyweight title from reigning champ Ruslan Chagaev of Uzbekistan in March last year but was stripped of the title after testing positive to clenbuterol. The ruling was subsequently overturned, clearing him of any wrongdoing.
While preparing to fight American veteran Shannon Briggs for the vacant WBA “regular” title last November Browne failed another drug test, this time for ostarine, claiming that the positive test was the result of a tainted pre-workout supplement he ingested.
Leapai isn’t afraid of matching his power and notorious iron-chin with the might of Browne, who owns a remarkable 88% knockout ratio.
“I come to fight and I know he’ll come to fight,” says Leapai. “It would be a good fight – for awhile.”
But before that can happen, Leapai has to get past Peato.
“He told us he is coming to fight and records will mean nothing on October 14th,” says Keegan. “It is a huge opportunity for him and he recognizes that. He says that just like Alex, he has the power to change everything with just one punch. Someone is going to hit the canvas.”
The Peato fight will be Leapai’s first bout back after a two-and-a-half year retirement.
ALEX LEAPAI QUOTES
On getting back into fighting shape: “I’ll be honest with you, it was really hard. I had to ask myself, ‘is this what I want to do?’. I was over 150kg, but when I went and saw my trainer Noel Thornberry I was down to 142kg. He was in a bit of shock, he didn’t know what to say. But I thank God for Noel because he didn’t think twice. We started training again and now I’ve lost thirty-something kilos. But it was really bad at one stage. I had to get my boys to come and tie my shoes. My waist used to be 97cm and I got up to 140cm. So that was bad. I didn’t want to show a picture of that.”
On the reason for his return to the ring: “When you’ve still got that fire burning inside you, it’s telling you ‘you’ve got to get back.’ It’s also the passing on my dad too. It’s just put more determination in me. I had a dream that I had a talk to my dad that I would win a world title. And I got there and even though my dad has passed away, the dream still lives on and I want to fulfill it. I want to do it for myself. It was always about doing it for my dad, but I want to do it for myself, for my kids. I thank God, I’m just more determined to go out there and conquer that goal and that’s what it’s all about now.”
On the current crop of heavyweight world titleholders: “I believe I can beat a lot of the heavyweights out there. Because now Wladimir Klitschko is retired, we’ve got three or four world champions out there. It’s been spread around. There’s only one Klitschko and a lot of these guys who are world champions, they’re very lucky they haven’t fought him. I had to fight the best fighter of this era, and I believe I can beat all these champions. It’s just about getting back in there and getting back on top again. And it won’t take long.”
On his family: “My family is everything. My kids are everything. It’s all about them. They’ve been behind me since day one. My kids are the whole reason I’m doing this. Not just for the legacy but so that they know that their dad did something too. That’s the whole thing, I don’t want to be a dad that just did nothing. I want to be known as a dad who went and gave it his best. That’s what it’s all about. To inspire my kids to get up and give it a go. I think I’m doing the right thing. Now it’s just a matter of getting back in there and getting back into the business again.”
On the sudden death of his father: “It was hard. I spoke to my dead on the Thursday and I was telling him I might have to hang up the gloves because I had to have the operation on the eyes. Dad just said to me ‘son, I’m so proud of what you’ve achieved, it’s up to you but my suggestion is to hang them up’. He was looking after my own wellbeing, you know what I mean? I spoke to Dad on Thursday in the afternoon about lunchtime and he passed away at 3 o’clock in the morning on Friday. It’s something that really shocked me because Dad always wanted me to fight on, he knew I would make it to the top.”
On the benefits of boxing: “I’m proof that you can achieve anything if you put your mind and your heart into it. People pay a lot of money to go on weight loss programs. I didn’t lose weight because I had to take this and that supplement. I lost weight because I stuck to a clean diet and just trained hard and that’s it. That’s all I did. I believe boxing is the best way for people to lose weight.”