RING heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, holder of the IBF, WBA and WBO belts, will defend his titles against Alex Leapai on April 26 in Oberhausen, Germany, Klitschko Management and K2 Promotions announced on Monday.
A 34-year-old, 6-foot fighter, Leepai (30-4-3, 24 knockouts) is coming off November's unanimous decision victory over Denis Boytsov, who was floored in the seventh and ninth rounds. Leapai was declared Klitschko's WBO mandatory opponent in December by WBO president Paco Valcarcel.
"It impressed me how Alex Leapai dominated Boytsov, " said Klitschko, 37, who was last in the ring for October's unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Alexander Povetkin, representing his 19th straight victory during a run that includes 13 knockouts.
"[Leapai] has shown strong punching power and a lot of heart. But moreover, that he can take a punch and feels confident in the role of the underdog. I will be very focused and prepare myself 100 per cent as always and will look forward to this next challenge.”
Nicknamed "The Lionheart," Leapai was born in Samoa and now lives and trains in Logan City, Australia. Leapai entered the bout with Boytsov having scored four straight knockout victories since being stopped in the ninth round by Kevin Johnson in April of 2012.
Against Boytsov, Leapai won by scores of 96-92 on the cards of Gerhard Sigl and Matteo Montella, and 98-92 on that of Zolton Enyedi.
Leapai will represent the 25th title fight for Klitschko (61-3, 52 KOs), who has been knocked out in the 11th round by Ross Puritty in December of 1998, the second round by Corrie Sanders in March of 2003, and the fifth round by Lamon Brewster in April of 2004.
"People talk about how great Wladimir is and the 61 victories he has had in his career," said Leapai. "I, on the other hand, think of the fact that he has been comprehensively KO'd three times by people who cannot punch nearly as hard as me."
Although Klitschko avenged the loss to Brewster by sixth-round stoppage in July of 2007, Leapai still views the champion as being vulnerable.
"I will break Wladimir," said Leapai, "and it will not be my hardest fight."
Photo: Martin Rose/Bongarts-Getty Images