Boxing champ has Broncos dream
The pugilistic tendencies that brought an end to a promising rugby league career now have Australian heavyweight contender Alex Leapai within reach of sporting immortality, but he wants his boys to be Broncos.
Leapai was a special guest at Broncos training on Tuesday and was presented with a jersey by Alex Glenn before he heads to Germany to take on Wladimir Klitschko, unbeaten in a decade and holder of the heavyweight belt for the WBA, WBC, IBF and IBO organisations.
The Samoan-born boxer was at Broncos' training with two of his children, looking to draw some inspiration from his favourite NRL team ahead of his bout against the Ukrainian and possibly put them on a path to the NRL.
"I'm a big fan of the Broncos and so are my boys. To be able come here and meet the boys and actually get a jersey from the team means a lot to me," Leapai said.
"It means a lot to me to go over to Germany and win this fight, not just for myself, but for my favourite team the Broncos and all the fans out there.
"I want [my boys] to play for the Broncos. I've already spoken to [Broncos football manager Andrew Gee] about signing my boys up now. I want them to play for the Broncos and I don't want them to do boxing because it is a hard game.
"If one of the kids eventually wants to do it then I'll support them whatever they do.
"The Broncos are my favourite team and it would be a dream come true if one of my boys played for them."
Leapai is no stranger to rugby league circles, having had a scholarship with the North Queensland Cowboys in 1997 where he played a handful of games for their colts team and also ther Wynnum Manly colts team in Brisbane. This included a handful of first grade games for the Seagulls in the then Queensland Cup however his league career didn't last long due to an uncontrollable short fuse that was compounded by drug and alcohol issues, eventually leading to a stint in prison.
"I did a few stupid things in the game and got banned from footy – that's why I do the boxing now," the 34-year-old said.
Leapai has now turned his life around and next Sunday's bout presents him with a genuine shot at becoming Australia's first heavyweight champion of the world. As the father of six children, family is an important aspect in Leapai's life with two of his kids at training proudly wearing their Broncos' jerseys. He is also the cousin of Canberra's Josh Papalii.
"I've got family at the Canberra Raiders but family or not – it's Broncos all the way," he said.
The man they call 'The Lionheart' is not short on confidence, talking up his chances of defeating Klitschko at the König-Pilsener-Arena in Oberhausen, Germany.
"All the hard work has been done now so it's just a matter of getting over there and doing the job," he said.
"I don't really get nervous but I'll probably start feeling it on the night.
"I know that if we do the hard work now the fight should be easy. It's just like the boys here – if they train hard the game will be easy.
"I'm training for 12 rounds. It's really hard to win in Germany especially against this guy but to be honest, this fight isn't going the distance – I'm going to knock this guy out.
"Australia on April 27 is going to have a new heavyweight champion."
Brisbane back-rower Alex Glenn, who presented Leapai with an honorary Broncos jersey, was clearly in awe of Australia's latest boxing sensation.
"He's a superstar, especially in this town. It's going to be a huge fight for him," Glenn said.
"I'm excited for him and to have him here at the club, it's pretty spectacular."
Putting boxing aside, Glenn also spoke about the Broncos recent barren run, including their disappointing 12-8 loss to the Titans last Friday, a game where they were leading with 10 minutes to go but let slip in the dying stages due to a Aidan Sezer try off a Ben Barba mistake.
"It was very frustrating losing those close ones – they hurt the most, but having said that we've taken a lot of positives out of the game," he said.
"We just have to make sure we keep building on a weekly basis. Our defence was a lot better [against the Titans] and we kept them to a small margin, but in saying that we have to keep improving and working to the full 80 [minutes]."