Winds of change?

By Steve Bateson on February 4, 2014
Winds of change?
Could Alex Leapai be the man to breathe new life into the Heavyweight division?

Is the landscape of the Heavyweight division about to alter dramatically?

With the WBC Championship now vacant and Bermaine Stiverne and Chris Arreola scheduled to re-match for the prestigious green belt we know that at least one of the four major blue ribbon titles is going to find its way back to American soil.

But what about the remaining three? Wladimir Klitschko, whether you like him or loathe him, is the current IBF, WBO and WBA World Champion and he has been a dominant champion at that. He is undefeated in ten years (his last defeat to Lamon Brewster was in 2004) and has forged a style that, although not easy on the eye, is extremely effective.

His ramrod jab and demolition ball of a right hand has put paid to 61 out of 64 opponents, he has knocked out 51 of those 61 victories, which is a statistic that speaks for itself. He is guaranteed a spot in the Hall of Fame, there can be no question, but with one Klitschko now hanging up his gloves you have to wonder how much longer Wladimir is going to stay around at the top of the Heavyweight tree. Could there be an emerging star to take his mantle?

April 26th is the date of Klitschko’s next title defense and the man in the opposite corner will be Australia’s Alex Leapai, a practical unknown to anyone outside of die-hard boxing fan’s knowledge. Every time Klitschko puts his belts on the line we weigh up the pros and cons of his opposition, debating whether they can land a big enough punch to turn Wladimir’s suspect chin to dust, but more often than not the chances are rendered insignificant and come fight night that prediction is proved correct.

Will that be the same of Leapai? All evidence suggests that it is probable, this is a man who was stopped by the enigma that is Kevin Johnson, but in the land of the big men it is well known that one punch can turn any fight, if there is one thing that Alex Leapai is good at it, it is punching.

24 stoppages from 30 victories show us that Leapai is more than just an average slugger, he possesses power in both hands, and in his last fight against highly touted Denis Boytsov ( A 10 round unanimous decision) he demonstrated that he can go to war in the trenches and come out on the other side with his hand raised in victory.

Nobody gave Leapai a chance in that fight and nobody gives him a chance come April 26th but shocks do happen and sooner or later Wladimir Klitschko’s days as the kingpin of the division are going to come to an end. The Ukrainian was fortunate enough not to be deducted points in his last fight (Unification clash with Alexander Povetkin) for persistent fouling and it will be interesting to see whether he is given the benefit of the doubt this time around. One thing is for certain, he will not be able to bully the monstrous Leapai in close as easily as he has done to previous opponents.

Wladimir will have a height and reach advantage over his challenger, his jab will once again prove key to victory, but this is a fairytale scenario for Leapai and if he gambles at the right moment then we could be in store for one of the biggest shocks in recent history. Povetkin exposed flaws in Klitschko’s defense, he doesn’t look as confident without the late Manny Steward in his corner, and there is an argument that Leapai packs more power than anyone Wladimir has faced since David Haye.

Haye bottled his chance, unwilling to take risks, and only went looking for a big punch in the final round, which subsequently had Klitschko resembling a deer in the headlights. If Leapai can learn from Haye’s downfall then perhaps he can shake the champion early and force Wladimir into making more mistakes. It is imperative that the Australian gets on the inside and roughs Klitschko up but getting past the jab is easier said than done, many have tried before and nearly all of them have failed.

If, and it is a big if, Leapai can force the pace and land a punch that rips the world championships from the grip of Wladimir Klitschko then we truly will be entering into a new era of Heavyweight boxing. The two men who have reigned supreme for well over a decade would both be removed from their thrones of power and the kingdom would be wide open for the taking.

We are dealing in hypotheticals, many may say I am talking in impossibilities, but as a boxing fan it is always exciting to dream up potentials and scenarios that would drastically change the sport we love. I believe there is no such thing as an impossibility in boxing and April 26th may be the date that proves that.

The likelihood is Klitschko defeats Leapai and goes on to meet the winner of Stiverne/Arreola in late summer for every major title, giving him the opportunity to become the first Undisputed Champion since Lennox Lewis.

Nobody could argue that Klitschko deserves that accolade, his dominance has been unparalleled despite a weak division, but a fresh injection of opportunities for fighters around the globe is the kickstart the Heavyweight realm needs. Interest from America, severely lacking since 2002, will put the big men back on a pedestal and that is something that the division has been crying out for since the days of Lewis, Tyson and Holyfield.

April 26th might be about Wladimir Klitschko and Alex Leapai, but waiting in the shadows will be a plethora of fighters who will like their chances of benefitting from the outcome. Tyson Fury, Kubrat Pulev, Deontay Wilder, Bryant Jennings, Dereck Chisora, the list continues to grow.

2014 may be the year when the Heavyweight ranks is given the shake-up that has been craved for a very long time. 

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Darrell 03:20am, 02/16/2014

    Though he has a Kiwi connection I can’t for the life of me see Alex going the distance, he has only a starters chance.

    I am more interested in the undercard fight of very promising young Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker.  He’s going to be a goodie.

  2. Gabriel May 05:48pm, 02/04/2014

    *Begin article*
    “Could Alex Leapai be the man to breathe new life into the Heavyweight division? “


    *End Article*

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