By Adrian Warren
Rising Australian heavyweight boxer Alex Leapai is eyeing a shot at one of the formidable Klitschko brothers and can make a statement against one of the few fighters to have gone the distance with one of the fearsome siblings.
After demolishing most of the decent local heavyweights who have dared to fight him, 32-year-old Queensland-based Leapai (25-3-3, 20 KOs) is taking a step up in class for his next fight.
He will be up against American and former world title contender Kevin Johnson (25-1-1, 11 KOs) at Doomben Racecourse on March 18, with at least one regional title on the line.
Johnson, 32, suffered his only professional loss to WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko in December 2009.
He was just the second man to go 12 rounds with Klitschko, with only two others subsequently doing it, after England's Dereck Chisora joined that list last weekend.
Vitali, 40, (44-2, 40 KOs) holds the WBC belt while younger sibling Wladimir, 35, (56-3, 49 KOs) owns WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts.
Leapai, who would give away at least 15cms in height to both Klitschkos, is on a 17-fight winning streak stretching back three-and-a-half years.
His promoter Noel Thornberry believes Leapai would garner international attention if he could trump Vitali Klitschko by knocking out Johnson.
"If Alex can do what Klitschko couldn't do, I think I'll be able to sell that to the European public," Thornberry told AAP.
Provided Leapai beat Johnson, Thornberry thought his charge would require plenty of sparring and a couple more fights before tackling one of the Ukrainian-born Klitschkos.
He was adamant it was realistic for Leapai to aspire to fighting and beating one of the giant siblings.
"I really do believe Alex has got the power - he's super tough, he's got his own awkward defence, his own awkward offence," Thornberry said.
"I believe he's a chance against the Klitschko brothers, especially Wladimir."
He revealed Leapai's fans included American and former WBO heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster, the last man to beat Wladimir Klitschko almost eight years ago.
Thornberry said Brewster had posted complimentary remarks about Leapai on Facebook.
Johnson, whose list of victims includes former WBA heavyweight champion Bruce Seldon, arrives in Australia just under two weeks before the fight.
"He (Johnson) is tricky. He's got a good jab - he's got good movement," Thornberry said of Johnson.