Klitschko to fight Leapai on April 26
Wladimir Klitschko will defend his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles against Australian challenger Alex Leapai in Oberhausen, Germany, on April 26.
Last month, the WBO announced that Leapai had been installed as its No. 1 contender and gave the camps 30 days to negotiate a deal, otherwise a purse bid would be ordered. The minimum bid for the fight was $1 million.
The six-foot Leapai defeated the previously unbeaten Denis Boytsov in November to become the WBO's mandatory challenger. The Samoa-born, 34-year-old Leapai has a 30-4-3 record with 24 knockouts since turning professional in 2004.
"I'll beat Wladimir and it won't even be my toughest fight," Leapai said.
Leapai had spent most of his career fighting in his home country against lesser opponents when he was handpicked to face Boytsov in Germany on November 23.
Boytsov had been one of Klitschko's mandatory challengers and the fight was on track to take place in March. But Boytsov's handlers wanted to keep him busy and took on Leapai in what was supposed to be a routine victory.
However, Leapai roughed up Boytsov, knocked him down twice and rolled to a unanimous decision victory to score the major upset and ruin his mandatory title shot. Then Leapai was unexpectedly installed as the new mandatory to replace Boytsov even though their bout was not an official elimination fight.
"I've never heard of Alex Leapai until the fight with Boytsov," Klitschko told ESPN.com last month. "I think he did a great job to win that fight and become official mandatory for WBO title. I'm looking forward to that challenge from Alex and I'm sure he will give his best in that fight against me."
The 37-year-old Klitschko, who comfortably defeated Alexander Povetkin of Russia in Moscow last October, is 61-3 with 52 KOs.
Klitschko will be making his 16th title defense during a dominant title reign that began in 2006. He is coming off a shutout decision victory against Povetkin, whom he knocked down four times, on October 5 in Moscow.
Klitschko has held a heavyweight title longer than anyone in boxing history other than Joe Louis (nearly 12 years) and has made the third-most title defenses in heavyweight history, trailing only Louis (25, a record in any division) and Larry Holmes (20).
Klitschko's older brother Vitali, the former WBC champion, stepped back from boxing to concentrate on politics in their native Ukraine.
This article first appeared on ESPN.com