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Forced to pullout from fight of his life

Heavyweight contender Alapati “The Heat Man” A’asa has been forced to pull out from the fight of his life against Australian heavyweight boxer Alex “Lionheart” Le’apai, after suffering a right shoulder injury last week during his training. [photo by AF]

Heavyweight contender Alapati “The Heat Man” A’asa has been forced to pull out from the fight of his life against Australian heavyweight boxer Alex “Lionheart” Le’apai, after suffering a right shoulder injury last week during his training.

The former American Samoa heavyweight champion, who has been fighting for Samoa since last year, was scheduled to face Le’apai on September 7 at the Faleata Sports Complex in Apia. The fight was scheduled for 8 rounds, and it was one of the four undercards for the main event of the evening between Jai Opetaia and Daniel Amman, both from Australia.

After he won his fight against one of Samoa’s top heavyweight contenders, Tino Honey in December of last year in an unanimous decision, the “Heat Man” continued on with his training to await who would be his next opponent.

It was June of this year when A’asa’s management confirmed to him that Le’apai would be his next opponent.

“I was looking forward to this fight and I considered it as the big fight of my life. I trained hard and put up everything I have for this fight, knowing that Le’apai is one of the best and hard punchers in the heavyweight division. I know I’m not perfect and I have some weaknesses in and out of the ring but I put everything behind me in order for me to win this fight. Unfortunately, things got worse when I got injured during my training and it’s really sad to think about it,” said A’asa.

The "Heat Man" went to the hospital to see his doctor when he felt pain in his shoulder and he could hardly move it. It was after this visit that he received the sad news from the doctor — he had a serious shoulder injury, and he needed to stop training for the next 3 months or more, until he is well again to train.

“I was very sad and heartbroken when I received the report from my doctor because I really needed this fight. I just wanted so bad to be in the ring with Le’apai, not only to learn from his skills but to lift up my career standard to the next level; however, I have to comply with my doctor’s advice to stop training,” he said.

Despite missing his chance, A’asa believes that the sun will rise again, and he will have his chance to fight Le’apai in the future.

“I will wait patiently for my time to come and when my injury goes away, I will be back in the gym for training and I will train hard … I will fulfill my dream to become champ,” A’asa said.

A’asa is on island visiting his family. He’s staying with his 77-year-old grandmother in Ottoville; and will be back in Samoa in the next couple of weeks, where he will train with his new coach, Vaaiga Tuigamala — injury permitting.

Holding the record of 15 fights with 13 wins, 2 loses with 10 KO, A’asa is planning to fight again before the end of this year to extend his boxing career record. He said that he will be doing light training outside of the gym when he gets back to his coach and management in Samoa, until he is cleared for full training.

After holding an undefeated boxing record of 10 fights with 10 wins, A’asa received the first loss of his boxing career by knockout in the second round of the 10-roundsbout, against Kiwi top heavyweight contender Hemi Ahio for the vacant NZ National Boxing Federation belt (NZNBF) in November 2015 at the Sky City, Auckland, NZ.

A’asa fought the first title fight of his life when Ahio was forced offshore to find a challenger for the NZNBF belt vacated by Joseph Parker, after a number of Kiwi opponents pulled out of the fight.

After his defeats, A’asa broke away from his long time head coach/trainer, Toleafoa Henry Tavake, and moved to Samoa to continue on with his boxing career under a new coach, Tu’igamala. He won all of his 3 fights in Samoa, but lost one in New Zealand against one of the Kiwi top heavyweight contenders, Junior Fa.

Le’apai on the other hand was the former world heavyweight title contender from Australia, who lost the first title fight of his life against former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitchko by knockout in the fifth round of a 12-round bout three years ago.

Le’apai became the first Australian to challenge for the heavyweight world title in 106 years when he fought Klitschko, and after his title fight, he was warned by his doctor that he could go blind if he kept fighting.

According to his fighting profile, he had surgery on both eyes after his title fight in 2014, and faces another operation after experiencing more problems in his last bout, a unanimous-decision loss to Manuel Charr in Russia in 2015.

Le’apai was planning to make a return to the ring against A’asa in Samoa next month. According to reports from Samoa about the fight, it will be Le’apai's first bout in more than 2 years after he initially retired following surgery on both eyes. It is not clear at this time who is going to replace A’asa against Le’apai.

Le’apai boasts a career record of 30-7-3 (24KO).