OBERHAUSEN: And just like that, it was gone. Alex Leapai’s world title dream, visions of hunting down the champ and tearing him to pieces, vanished under a steel rain of jabs and cannon right hands from the incomparable Wladimir Klitschko.
Leapai’s round five exit in Oberhausen was largely predictable. Few thought he could achieve what no man has managed to do in 10 years, yet the manner in which Klitschko ruled the ring took this to a whole new level.
It was a clinic of pain. The CompuBox stats paint a picture of savage and clinical domination from the undisputed world champion, who only added more daylight between his lofty station in the division and those, like Tyson Fury, lining up to take the next beating.
Klitschko found a home for 147 of his 396 punches. Of those, he connected with 80 of 172 power shots. Leapai felt – and often ate – each and every one before he was knocked down twice in the fifth. Eddie Cotton sensibly waved it all off.
Leapai barely made a mark on Dr Steelhammer’s skin. He threw 69 punches and landed just 10. TEN. They had hoped Klitschko would be enticed to stand and fight. Instead, he moved constantly, Leapai left to flail at a ghost.
It was about as big a humbling as the sport can serve up but Leapai, doing his best to hold back tears after the fight, remains defiant. He felt he let his supporters down, when he should be impressed he made it that far into the contest.
“To be honest I feel a bit disappointed. That's just the way the game goes and Wladimir really did his homework. He really studied and made it hard for me to land that right hand, just kept moving,” Leapai said.
“There could have been a few things there I could have done. But tonight was all about Wladimir. I just couldn't get through that jab, he kept moving. I have watched a lot of his fights but tonight wasn't what i have been watching.
“It's not the end of the Lionheart. He will be back.”
Leapai’s trainer Noel Thornberry was concerned from the first round. The fight plan was out the window after two minutes and an early count, although it looked like a slip. But he said Leapai would return and rebound and he wanted him to do it quickly.
Dwelling on a defeat like that doesn’t do any fighter’s confidence any favors and Thornberry wants Leapai back in the ring within three months, potentially against Shannon Briggs, the American heavyweight that has pestered Klitshcko all week.
“It was a comprehensive defeat. We don’t kid ourselves. What he needs to do now is take a month’s break, come back and see how he feels about. He’s not going to want to go out on a note like that,” Thornberry said.
“We might even bring the big-mouth Shannon Briggs down to Australia. Let him earn his opportunity to fight Wlad. I’ll give him a call. I’ll be offering for him to come down to Australia.”
Klitschko has been a model pro and gave Leapai enormous amounts of respect after what surely must be one of the easiest defences of his reign, which now stretches to 16 as the undisputed champion.
He said he was wary of Leapai’s overhand right and made sure it never came close to landing. When Leapai finally threw it in the fifth – a grazing blow that had Klitschko quickly backpeddling across the ring – the champion responded by knocking him out just seconds later.
“You were bold, you had great desire to become champion. Not many of my opponents have that type of attitude. I think this experience is good for you. I think that fans back home can be proud of you for representing the sport, yourself and your family the way you did,” Klitschko said.
“I could see tonight that he was looking for the right moment, the right shot. I swear if one of those shots landed anywhere on my head, I wouldn't see the end.”
This was Leapai’s first fight as a fulltime professional and there can be no turning back now, says Thornberry, if he wants to continue his career.
His corner had high hopes for this fight and still have hopes for the future. But Leapai would become yet another challenger to find out the hard way that talking about beating Klitschko and actually stepping into the ring are vastly different beasts.
“There’s nobody else in the world that could have done what Wladimir did to him. That foot movement…. Alex couldn’t have hit him with a handful of rice. It was one of those things. He moved so well and he’s so skillful,” Thornberry said.
Leapai had said if he won the belts, he would have returned to the hotel, showered and gone to bed, job done, mission complete.
He did just that once he left the arena on Saturday night, not a champion of the world but a beaten man with a sore head and crumpled pride.How he responds will define his career more than a valiant defeat at the hands of a heavyweight monster.
The story Alex Leapai destroyed by Wladimir Klitschko as he lands just 10 punches first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.