Samoan-born Queenslander Alex Leapai is loving the Rocky comparisons as he prepares for his dream world title fight with Wladimir Klitschko in April.
Comparisons with Rocky can’t be avoided by Alex Leapai after the unheralded Brisbane delivery van driver booked a world title shot with one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time, Wladimir Klitschko.
Especially after Leapai happily recreated the famous scene in Sylvester Stallone’s hit movie by triumphantly running up stairs for the Gold Coast media on Wednesday in a rare break ahead of his dream April 27 (AEDT) fight in Germany.
But Leapai said he felt like another fictional character when he stared down the Ukrainian superstar at a recent media event in Germany that confirmed he would be the first Australian to fight for the undisputed heavyweight belt since 1908.
“The funny thing is I switched over and pretty much turned into the Hulk,” he said.
“I was thinking ‘why wait, let’s get it on tonight’.
“But (trainer) Noel (Thornberry) said ‘settle down’.
“He (Klitschko) came off as a gentleman so I had to show him that same respect.”
He may have done his best Rocky impersonation on Wednesday but few Hollywood scripts could rival Leapai’s story.
When Klitschko won his first world title in 2006, Leapai was serving a six-month jail sentence in Brisbane for assaulting two nightclub bouncers.
Since then the Ukrainian giant has gone on to defend the title 15 times, been engaged to US actress Hayden Panettiere and made up to $30 million in prize money.
Arguably Samoan-born Leapai has achieved much more, turning his life around while raising six kids with wife Theresa who was heavily pregnant with their fourth child when her husband was imprisoned.
He reckons he went through 10 cars driving the three-hour round trip a day to trainer Thornberry’s Gatton gym during the nine-year slog it took to book his dream fight.
Leapai – once lost to drinking and marijuana use – said he would never forget the day his mother was reduced to tears when he was slapped with a jail sentence.
His mum was again crying when he last saw her – this time with tears of joy.
He ended a whirlwind three-week overseas promotional jaunt for the fight at his homeland Samoa, where his proud mum greeted him at the island nation’s airport with open arms.
She has not let go – Leapai brought her back to be with family as he prepares to launch an intense eight-week build-up to the fight of his life, which is expected to net the former battler a $1.6 million pay cheque.
“I am only the second person from Samoa to get a title shot after David Tua (in 2000).
“From a little island, it’s a big thing.”
It’s a big deal in the Leapai household, too.
“The kids know this is what I have to do to put food on the table and now I have a chance to set them up,” he said.
“I also want to show them I have achieved something.
“In 100 years’ time hopefully they still say this is the guy who went over and conquered the great Klitschko.”