I spent 6 months in a maximum security prison, the ones that have the worst kind of criminals in them. That first night in prison I was terrified, but I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I knew I deserved to be there. But I felt sorry for my wife, for my kids, for my parents - I did this to them. I knew I had to change, I knew I had to become a man for them.
I wished that I could go back in time and change what I did that night, but I couldn’t – I made the wrong choice and I knew I had to pay for that. But I had enough time to think about my future. And all I could think about was boxing, about becoming a world champion; I knew deep down that I was a good enough boxer to get to that level, and I knew that striving for that goal would make my family proud of me again. Boxing would be my redemption.
So I started training in my prison cell. I did thousands of sit-ups, shadow boxing, push ups, and I dreamed about my future. I was released after six months, and got straight back into professional training.
But it wasn’t easy getting out and trying to stay on the right path. There were plenty of opportunities to get with the people who could influence me in the wrong way. If I had stuck by my old ways I would have been straight inside again. At the times I felt tempted to drift back to my old ways, I would listen to the voice in my head reminding me to stay disciplined. I drew on my family and my trainer for support – they helped me stay focused on my goal, and put my previous life behind me.
Several years have now passed, and with the support of many, I have made boxing my life and made my family proud. I’ve won many fights, lost some, won a number of titles like the WBO Asia Pacific heavyweight belt, and I was the first Australian to fight for the heavyweight world title in more than 100 years. And I’m still going – nothing can stop me now.
When I stand in the boxing ring before a fight, my competitors look into my eyes and they see the real Alex Leapai. They see a father of six. They see a wife who has stood by me through the low points of my life. They see the parents who I have let down in the past and who I am making proud again. And they see my own pride at being to turn my life around.
If I can do it, anybody can.