Lionheart primed for Pan Pacific

IT'S not as if boxer Leonardo Zappavigna needs extra motivation approaching a fight but when he takes on his next opponent he will be thinking of a special person in his life.

The "Lionheart", who trains with trainer Tommy Mercuri at the Leppington Westside Boxing Gym, will be devoting his performance to pay homage to his sister-in-law April Panagopoulos, who died from cancer.

When the Prestons boxer steps into the ring to face Japanese boxer Shuhei Tsuchiya for the vacant IBF Pan Pacific light welterweight title tomorrow, Thursday, April 3, Zappavigna will be devoting his performance in her memory.

Mercuri has nothing but admiration and respect for Zappavigna's intentions.

"He's dedicating this fight to a lovely young girl who fought a braver fight than any other boxer would ever fight, but lost the battle with cancer," Mercuri said.

"She really loved coming to watch Lenny box and that's why Lenny has chosen to dedicate this fight in honour of April, whom he loved dearly.

"This brave young girl, who died too young at 26 years old, was a very strong and special angel, who inspired me.

"God bless her soul."

Zappavigna's date with destiny will take place at The Melbourne Pavilion.

Mercuri said Zappavigna was in prime condition to deal with the Japanese boxer who has won by 13 knockouts in his 15 fights.

A heavy sparring session with Anthony Mundine has given Zappavigna confidence in his abilities.

"This has been a great prep, physically and mentally, for Lenny," Mercuri said.

"He's trained the house down for this fight and we have had great sparring partners including Anthony Mundine and young Val Borg.

"Anthony Mundine been very supportive to us.

"The 10-round sparring session with him went very well."

If he is victorious in the 12-round title fight, there could be bigger fish to fry.

But he's taking one fight at a time and realises the punching power of his Japanese opponent.

"He's (Tsuchiya) fought a few good boys - mainly Japanese.

"He's knocked out many of his opponents so he's a puncher, but Lenny is, too.

Zappavigna's record stands at 30 wins with 20 knockouts and two losses.

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