Wladimir Klitschko to face Leapai
Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko was ordered on Wednesday to next face Alex Leapai in a mandatory title defense.
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 will be ordered. The minimum bid for the fight is $1 million. However, either side can decline to negotiate and call for an immediate purse bid.
Leapai (30-4-3, 24 KOs), 34, of Australia, had spent most of his career fighting in his home country against lesser opponents when he was handpicked to face Denis Boytsov in Germany on Nov. 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. "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."
Bernd Boente, Klitschko's manager, told ESPN.com that the sides will begin negotiations but added that until he speaks to Leapai's team it is unclear when and where the fight will take place.
"We accept the decision by the WBO," Boente said of making Leapai the mandatory challenger. "I saw Leapai's courageous fight against No. 1 and unbeaten Boytsov. He looked strong, can take a punch and had Boytsov twice on the floor. We have no idea about the date and arena. First we have to discuss with Leapai's management."
Klitschko (61-3, 52 KOs), 37, of Ukraine, 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 Alexander Povetkin, whom he knocked down four times, on Oct. 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).
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