ALEX LEAPAI.lionheartPhoto: Google images/www.aus-boxing.com —


Hengyang, CHINA–Australia’s Alex “Lionheart” Leapai proved true to his moniker after he eked out a workmanlike stoppage win over the very game Mexican heavyweight fighter Felipe Romero at the jampacked Hengyang Stadium here, in the process retaining his World Boxing Organization (WBO) Asia Pacific heavyweight title.

The Samoa-born Leapai, who came in at 110 kilograms at the weigh-in prior to the bout, applied pressure all throughout the bout, but found himself at the receiving end of Romero’s jabs and body shots along the way. Fighting with blood oozing from his nostrils, Romero tried to outbox Leapai, but could not handle the power of the reigning champion.

Leapai scored the first knockdown of the night right at the get-go, sending Romero crashing to the canvas for the count, but could not put away the fleet-footed heavyweight Mexican who danced his way out of harm’s way.

The end came at the 2:13 mark of the ninth round after Leapai sent Romero twice to the canvas, prompting referee Bruce McTavish to put an end to the fight.

Leapai was quoted as saying he broke his hand in the first round, which could have explained why he could not finished Romero earlier than expected.

At the time of the stoppage, both judges Salven Lagumbay and Danrex Tapdasan of the Philippines scored the bout 77-74 for Leapai while Thailand’s Sawaeng Thaweekon saw it at 78-73 in favor of the Queensland-based heavyweight. With the win, Leapai improved to 29 wins, 4 losses, 3 draws with with 24 knockouts. Romero dipped to 16 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw with 11 knockouts.

Supervisor for the fight was WBO Asia Pacific chairman Leon Panoncillo assisted by WBO Australia representative Danny Leigh.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, promoter Liu Gang also sponsored a seminar for officials conducted by the WBO, where Chinese pro boxing officials learned tips from veteran fight officials Bruce McTavish, Salven Lagumbay, Sawaeng Thaweekon, and Danrex Tapdasan.

The aim was to improve pro boxing officiating in China, said the 42-year-old Liu Gang, one of China’s biggest promoters.