Alex Leapai and the Worst Heavyweight Challengers of the Klitschko Era

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Alex Leapai and the Worst Heavyweight Challengers of the Klitschko Era
Christian Charisius/Pool

The standard of challengers to the heavyweight title has been criticised frequently through the history of boxing, especially when there is a dominant champion making his title defences look easy.

Famously, during Joe Louis' still-record 25 defences of the crown, the term "Bum of the Month Club" was coined to describe overmatched opponents.

In reality that was an unfair description of the men brave enough to step into the ring with a feared champion and, under close examination, you will find unworthy challengers across all weight-classes, especially with the modern proliferation of titles.

But, perhaps because all heavyweight title fights generate a certain amount of interest and coverage, weaker opponents still get thrust into the public eye more than those in other divisions—and are subject to ridicule and wider complaints about the state of the division.

Even with those qualifiers, Alex Leapai, the 34-year-old Australian who fights champion Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday in Germany, is an extraordinarily weak challenger.

Leapai's record holds only one notable win, which came over Denis Boystov in November, and although Boystov had been around a bit and proved himself a decent operator he was not proven at the top level.

In Leapai's only previous fight at fringe world-level he was stopped in 2012 by Kevin Johnson, a guy who has lost six times against anyone who can throw back.

While Leapai will argue he's been improving all through his career, if you go back to 2008 (his fifth year as a pro) you find he dropped a decision to Colin Wilson, a fighter who had previously lost 23 times against 33 wins.

All in all, it's certainly fair to say that Leapai has very little pedigree going into this fight. While at times weak opposition can be justified by champions who have cleaned out a division and beaten anyone any good, that just isn't the case right now.

There's at least eight fighters who'd make a more promising match-up versus Klitschko. From Europe you have Kubrat Pulev, Tyson Fury, Dereck Chisora and Czar Glazkov—and from North America you have Bermane Stiverne, Deontay Wilder, Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez.

On paper you could argue that Leapai is the worst challenger of the Klitschko era (2004-2014 and counting), but he deserves the chance to show what he can do on the big stage before being awarded that dubious distinction.

From 2004-2009 the quality of Klitschko opponents was pretty good, but about five years ago they realised that even when facing lesser opposition, they could still sell lots of tickets and attract healthy TV audiences on RTL in Germany. Quality control has since left the building.

Consequently all the men on this list fought against one of the brothers after 2008. From the 2004-2008 opponents, perhaps only Ray Austin was comparably bad—and he fought Wladimir before the younger brother was truly established as a champion in his own right.

So, from poor to poorest, here are the seven worst heavyweight title challengers of recent years. In each case you could make a good argument that they should never have been given their shot in the first place.

All records from BoxRec.

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