Boxing: Klitschko in a league of his own

By Daniel Richardson in Oberhausen

Boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine, left, stares at challenger Alex Leapai from Australia-Samoa during a press conference ahead of their heavyweight bout. Photo / AP
Boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine, left, stares at challenger Alex Leapai from Australia-Samoa during a press conference ahead of their heavyweight bout. Photo / AP

When you're the heavyweight champion of the world, everybody knows your name.

During the fight-week press conference between champion Wladimir Klitschko and challenger Alex Leapai overnight, eight men sat on a stage at the Intercontinental hotel in Dusseldorf to give statements and field questions from the media.

Leapai was flanked by trainer Noel Thornberry, master of ceremonies Gregor Konig and K2 co-ordinator Matthias Bolhofer. Klitschko sat with coach Johnathon Banks, manager Bernd Bonte and promoter Tom Loeffler.

Every man had a sign with their name on it in front of them; all except Klitschko.
Instead, the 1.98m Ukrainian had his five title belts sitting before him.

One of the finest boxers of his era, Klitschko holds the IBO, IBF, WBA, WBO and The Ring crowns and they will all be on the line when he fights Australia's Leapai in Oberhausen, Germany on Sunday (NZT).

Despite Leapai's troubled past, which includes a stint in prison for assault, the 34-year-old genuinely believes he has the chance to change the boxing landscape this weekend.

"I have an opportunity now to fulfill my dream," Leapai said. "Watch this fight, because we are going to make history."

The press conference wasn't without its typical hype, with former WBO heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs storming the event with a healthy dose of trash talk.

The whole episode smelt like a set-up and it was probably done to help build publicity around the world title bout in the US given TV network ESPN will show the fight.

Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker, who will meet Brazilian Marcelo Luiz Nascimento on the undercard, was in attendance to watch the circus and also had the opportunity to meet Klitschko - a man he looks up to.

Parker ogled Klitschko's belts before the action got underway and said: "One day," in reference to his dreams of being a world champion.

Klitschko, undefeated in 10 years, is set to make his 16th title defence this weekend and likened Leapai to Australia's version of Rocky Balboa.

The courier driver with a 30-4-3 record was named as Klitschko's mandatory challenger by the WBO after the Queenslander produced a stunning upset to beat Russian Denis Boytsov in November.

There's a Cinderella story in waiting but Klitschko doesn't want to be part of the fairytale.

"I've been doing it for a long time but trust me, I'm not bored at all," Klitschko said. "I'm excited with what we are doing. I've never felt as good as I feel now, considering my age."

Klitschko (61-3) is 38 but has recently said he could fight for another decade and took inspiration from Bernard Hopkins who is a light heavyweight world champion at 49.

Before taking questions from the press, which he answered in fluent German and English, Klitschko gave a brief sermon about the fight.

He is set to enter the ring this weekend behind a backdrop of great political unrest in his native Ukraine where his brother, and former world champion, Vitali Klitschko is a central figure.

"People in Ukraine will be united and we'll feel united in this fight."

The champion then finished with some wise words for the challenger.

"Alex, welcome to big-time boxing."

Daniel Richardson is in Germany courtesy of Duco Events Ltd

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 02 Aug 2014 18:36:25 Processing Time: 460ms