All you need to know about Joseph Parker's next opponent Alex Leapai
Australian heavyweight Alex Leapai has been confirmed as Joseph Parker's replacement opponent for his next fight in the United States.
The pair will clash in Providence, Rhode Island on June 30 (NZT) in the opening bout of Parker's three-fight deal with British promoter Eddie Hearn.
Leapai comes in at late notice to replace American Eric Molina who couldn't agree financial terms.
The heavy-handed Leapai is well known to Parker but not so well known to Kiwi fight fans.
Here's the run down on a veteran game enough to come in at late notice to test the former WBO champion who needs to make a statement to the American market and his new bosses.
- Samoan-born Leapai is 39-years-old and brings a record of 32 wins (26KOs), 7 losses (4KOs) and 4 draws in a professional career dating back to 2004.
- After spending five years in Auckland until the age of 12, Leapai was raised in Australia and has fought 36 of his fights there, starting out in the league clubs and progressing to bigger stages.
- He maneuvered himself into a world title fight in 2014 but came up short against Wladimir Klitschko when they met in Germany. Suffering stage fright and battling huge height and reach disadvantages, Leapai hardly fired a shot and was knocked out in the fifth round.
- Leapai had earned his title shot by upsetting Russian Denis Boystov on points in an eliminator to become the WBO's mandatory challenger. It remains Boystov's only loss.
- Parker fought on the world title undercard in Oberhausen, scoring a knockout win over Brazil's Marcelo Nascimento. The Parker and Leapai camps mixed regularly on that trip.
- Leapai has had just five fights since losing to Klitschko and has 2 wins, 2 losses and a draw in that time. His last fight was a knockout win over aging Aussie Roger Izonritei in Toowoomba in August last year.
- Parker and Leapai have no common opponents though Leapai's comeback fight after losing to Klitschko was against American Malik Scott who is a regular sparring partner of Parker's, including working with him for this fight. Scott beat Leapai by a unanimous points decision in Brisbane.
- Physically Leapai is a good match for Parker. Leapai stands 1.83m and has a 1.9m reach, Parker stands 1.93m and has a 1.93m reach.
- Leapai played rugby league as a youngster and was good enough to earn a scholarship with the North Queensland Cowboys that ended when he punched other players on the field while competing in the under 19s. He also shoved the referee and was banned from the sport for five years.
-Leapai remains a loyal league fan and supports the Brisbane Broncos.
- In 2005, Leapai spent six months in prison on a grievous bodily harm charge after attacking two bouncers.
- Leapai's life had spiralled into drugs and alcohol abuse but he found religion behind bars and turned his life around.
- This will be Leapai's first fight in the US though he has fought in Germany, China, Indonesia and Russia.
- Leapai, dubbed "The Lionheart", lists Samoan-New Zealand heavyweight great David Tua as his inspiration.
- Leapai and his wife Theresa have six children – four girls and two boys.