Sunday, April 27, 2014

Boxing: Reasons Alex Leapai’s Loss To Wladimir Klitschko Really Hurt Australia

ONE round into last night’s world heavyweight title fight, it was clear why both fighters had earned their nicknames.

Wladimir Klitschko is “Dr Steelhammer”, a robot-like giant. Methodical. Precise. Dominant. Brutal.

Alex Leapai is “The Lionheart”. Brave and willing, but completely out of his depth. Barring the odd wild roundhouse that Klitschko could see coming from last week, the 34-year-old Aussie seemingly had no plan to take down his towering and more experienced opponent.

Almost like a father provoking his young son in the ring, Klitschko kept the 112kg Leapai at bay almost literally one-handed – the Ukrainian completely dominated the fight with his left-hand jab.

Come the fifth round, having already suffered an early knockdown and countless punishing blows to the face, Leapai fell for the last time and the dream was over.

Klitschko’s knockout victory kept his hopes of becoming the longest-reigning heavyweight champion intact.

It also extended one of the great ducks in Australian sport.
To put the result into perspective, here are seven reasons Leapai’s loss is so shattering.

This country has never produced a world heavyweight champion. And it’s back to the drawing board now. For 106 years, some of sport’s biggest names – Muhammad Ali the biggest of them all – have been crowned the champion of the world, but it remains one of the great unscaled mountains for Australian athletes. Only three years ago, Cadel Evans broke our duck in the Tour de France. Then last year, Adam Scott ended the Masters curse. This morning was supposed to be Leapai’s time.

He’s been called Australia’s Rocky more than once. A delivery truck driver from Logan with six kids. A man who spent six months in prison for belting four security guards before turning his life around. Leapai came from nowhere to get his shot at the title. He was rated one of the longest shots in boxing history. This was his one chance at becoming one of the biggest names in world sport.

Alex Leapai Jnr holds back tears as his father goes down in the fifth round.

Had Leapai shocked everyone and become the world heavyweight champ, he could have become one of the highest paid athletes in the world. He was guaranteed $1.5 million for today’s fight, but that purse would have swelled to a rematch package worth about $6 million with a victory. And according to marketing experts, that would have just been the start of the fortune.

Brothers Vitali and Wladimir have dominated to such an extent in modern times that it has ground the heavyweight division into the dirt. It’s time for a change at the top. The reality is, however, that they have simply been a class above.

A champion like Leapai could have helped restore boxing’s battered image, providing a champion people could love. A champion who captured our imagination. Boxing is a sport with a history of compelling storylines and Leapai’s would have been right up there.

Might we have had another Black Caviar situation on our hands? A sporting story that transcended and the whole country got behind? Australians love an underdog, and there has hardly been a bigger one than Alex Leapai.

Hasn’t it been brilliant having an Australian boxing story that hasn’t involved Anthony Mundine. Despite all his success, few would argue Choc has been a positive influence on the sport in this country. Leapai is a humble, quietly spoken man. The sort of champion you’re proud to cheer for.


No comments:

Post a Comment