Kiwi connection to take on Wladimir Klitschko
Alex Leapai is talking a good fight after officially signing to fight world heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, bringing another Kiwi connection to one of sport's greatest prizes.
Leapai's April 26 bout with the great Klitschko marks just the second time a Samoan has fought for the heavyweight championship of the world - the prize fight in Oberhausen, Germany coming 14 years after David Tua took on Lennox Lewis in Las Vegas.
Leapai lived in New Zealand between the ages of four and 12 after his family moved here from Samoa.
Like All Blacks and league great Sonny Bill Williams, he attended Owairaka Primary School in Mt Albert and played rugby league for Marist.
But his family shifted to Australia where he made his name in boxing, though Tua remained his inspiration.
"I know the enormity of what is ahead of me," Leapai (34) said after signing his contract to fight for the IBO, WBO, WBA and IBF belts in what will be the biggest night of boxing in Australasian pay-per-view history.
New Zealand promoters Duco have secured joint venture rights for TV coverage on either side of the Tasman, believing they can get a decent payday themselves with their star boxer Joseph Parker set to fight on the undercard, probably against a world-ranked European.
Duco are working with Parker's trainer Kevin Barry to find the right opponent.
But it's Leapai who is in the spotlight for now and he's trying to keep things in perspective.
"Lots of people want to get excited but I'm trying not too - not yet anyway. There's no point me thinking about the fight too much right now. I just have to keep my head down, train hard and make sure that I'm ready on April 26 because, trust me, I can win this fight."
Leapai knows that last statement is the expected one - but he believes it. And his reference points are three fellow pugilists - Ross Puritty, Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster.
"Everyone wants to focus on Wladimir's 61 wins," said Leapai who has knocked out 24 opponents. "But I'm focused on the three loses on his record, and anyone who knows boxing knows this - I hit a lot harder than any of those guys."
A win against Klitschko would come after an on-again off again boxing career which has been disrupted by phases of disinterest, a stint in prison, and injuries.
But he has put that all behind him and is promising to go one better than his boxing hero Tua.
"David is an inspiration to me," said Leapai. "I remember watching that [title] fight. It was a turning point for me.
"It was a Sunday and our family had been to church. I was standing behind my father when I heard him say that he wished that one day I could do what brother David was doing.
"I was standing behind him with a beer in my hand ... I felt so bad. I knew I wasn't giving everything to being the best athlete I could be at the time. I had to leave the room. It was a pivotal moment for me."
"I am a father of six. I have a wife who has stood by me through the lows point of my life. I have parents who I have let down in the past. So when I climb into the ring, it will be personal.
"I will stand my ground. And I will fight. And I will win."
Leapai's long-time trainer and manager Noel Thornberry is convinced that his charge's awkward and unorthodox style will be the difference in the pay-per-view extravaganza.
"When you prepare for a fight, part of it is identifying your opponent's strengths and weaknesses," Thornberry said after signing a pay-per-view rights deal in New Zealand and Australia with Duco Events.
"One of Alex's great strengths is his power, but he is so awkward that it's hard to prepare to fight him because he can throw punches from anywhere. I can't always predict a punch that Alex throws and I know that at times Alex isn't sure where the next punch is coming from either.
"But when he throws it everyone knows there's going to be some real power behind it. Opponents can't prepare for that. So that awkward delivery is a big advantage for us. It makes him a very dangerous opponent."