NOEL Thornberry has 15 weeks to get Alex Leapai ready for the biggest fight in Australian heavyweight boxing history.
On April 26 Leapai will fight Wladimir Klitschko for the WBO title and Gatton-based trainer Thornberry is delighted with where Leapai is at this stage of his preparation.
He is still overcoming a calf tear sustained in his previous fight, a unanimous points defeat of the former number one-ranked contender Denis Boston, which earned Leapai his shot.
But Thornberry's only concern is keeping Leapai off the calf long enough to ensure he doesn't re-injure it.
"He's training nearly as hard now as before the Boston fight," Thornberry said.
That is despite being unable to do any work that will strain his calf.
Instead, he is doing core work, hydrotherapy and bag work without moving his feet, for now.
Thornberry has no doubt he will be ready for the fight of his life.
"A lot of people don't realise Alex has never had a full training camp," the trainer said. "Because he can't get any sparring partners.
"He smashes them."
To overcome that Thornberry is ensuring Leapai will have suitable sparring partners in the same mould as Klitschko- that is, 198cm tall.
Even if that means flying them over from the US.
"Sparring is the key," Thornberry said.
"That's where you get your timing and distance.
"When you can punch as hard as Leaped you can clean anybody up."
Yet Klitschko has made a career out of not letting anyone get into position to be able to clean him up, using his massive reach to remain at distance or his well-honed holding technique if anyone tries to get on his inside.
The eight-and-a-half years Klitschko has held his title is the second longest in history, after Joe Louis' 11-years-and-eight-months reign. But Thornberry believes he is beatable.
"Everyone gives him centre ring," the trainer said.
"You've got to back him up and fight your own fight.
"People have said Klatsch will outbox him. But it is not going to be a boxing contest.
"Alex has got to fight.
"Klatsch will try to shut him down. He'll rip his head down and stand over him.
"But lately he's been fighting small men, compared to Alex."
What makes a good boxer? Self-belief
What is the highlight of your training career? When my brother and Maselino Masoe won world titles. But seeing Alex beat Denis Boystov was right up there.
What is your biggest concern about Leapai fighting Klitschko? That he'll be able to hang on and tie Alex up. He's like an octopus.
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