Alex Leapai has a dream, but Wladimir Klitschko intends on delivering a dose of cold hard reality in their heavyweight boxing world title fight.
Giant Ukranian Klitschko (61-3, 51 KOs) will defend four titles in the German city of Oberhausen on Sunday morning (AEST) and has made a habit of demolishing opponents’ dreams and reducing them to the rubble of nightmares.
Leapai experienced some shoulder pain in the lead-up, though his camp insists it’s not a major issue.
“It’s no concern, he’s just had a massage to unlock the shoulder,” Leapai’s trainer Noel Thornberry told AAP on Friday.
Klitschko has an imposing 22-2 record in world title bouts, while Leapai (30-4-3, 24 KOs) will be contesting one for the first time.
The champion is on a 10-year, 19-fight tear and while always speaking respectfully about Leapai, the Ukrainian has shown no outward signs of stress in the lead-up.
Conversely, Leapai cancelled an eve-of-fight media opportunity but Thornberry said some nerves were a positive sign.
How quickly he deals with any fight-day nerves will be a pivotal factor in his chances of becoming Australia’s first universally recognised heavyweight champion.
“It will probably hit me on the night that, hey, we are fighting for the undisputed,” Leapai said.
Thornberry said: “It’s going to be very hard not to be anxious on a night like this but he’s got to control that.
“That’s part and parcel of being a champion, because you can do all the hard work, be ready to go and psychologically if you don’t control yourself, you can blow it all on the one go.
“He’s experienced losing before, which is a good thing because he hated it.”
Thornberry’s biggest concern remains Klitschko’s tendency to hold, something he intended discussing with American referee Eddie Cotton at the rules meeting.
He is confident Leapai, who has been stopped twice, has a chin strong enough to withstand Klitschko’s bombs while the challenger isn’t just looking for one big punch.
“Everybody says it’s that one punch that we’re looking for, but I’ve worked so hard for 12 rounds and we’ve been looking at a 12-round fight,” Leapai said.
“I have an opportunity now to fulfil my dream.”
Old stager Klitschko has heard that line many times before.
“There’s a lot of talk and promise and lines about dreams and wishes to become champion,” Klitschko said.
“The reality of big-time boxing is coming up on Saturday night and that’s a big difference.”
Klitschko is a strong betting favourite but the champion and his camp have dismissed any suggestions of complacency or underestimating the challenger.
“I’ve told him: ‘This is one of your more dangerous fights in the last five or six years,'” Klitschko’s trainer Jonathon Banks said.
Klitschko said he was more focused on fighters he previously knew little about.
“But with an underdog, which Alex Leapai is in people’s eyes, you have to be particularly careful because you never know what is in there,” Klitschko said.
The undercard features unbeaten New Zealand heavyweight Joseph Parker fighting for the interim Pan Asian Boxing Association title against Brazilian Marcelo Nascimento.