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Aussie's LA boxing gamble set to pay off

AAP logoAAP 8/12/2016 Peter Mitchell

Lenny Zappavigna remembers walking through the front door of Hollywood's hallowed Wild Card gym and nervously scanning the room for its owner Freddie Roach.

The Sydney-born boxer, after losing a world-title shot, wanted to reinvigorate his career in Los Angeles and Roach is one of boxing's great trainers.

"It was one of the hardest things ever just going there," Zappavigna, 29, told AAP on Thursday.

"I walked in not knowing anybody.

"I said to Freddie, 'Can I train here?'"

Roach, whose star-studded stable of champions has included Manny Pacquiao, Julio Cesar Chavez and Wladimir Klitschko, gave the Aussie stranger a sparring baptism of fire.

"Freddie said, 'Do you want to fight Miguel Cotto?'," Zappavigna recalled.

"I said, '(Expletive) yeah! Let's do it'."

Cotto, a world champion in four weight classes, was preparing for a world-title fight and before Zappavigna had time to let it sink in he was in the Wild Card ring sparring one of the world's best pound-for-pound fighters.

"All I had in my corner was a water bottle," the Australian said.

That nervous first day was two years ago and Zappavigna immediately impressed Roach.

On Saturday (Sunday AEDT) at the Galen Center in Los Angeles Zappavigna, with Roach in his corner, will fight Kazakhstan's undefeated power puncher Sergey Lipinets in an IBF junior welterweight world title eliminator.

The winner gets a shot at Namibian southpaw Julius Indongo, who shocked the boxing world at the weekend when he knocked Russian champion Eduardo Troyanovsky out 40 seconds into their world-title bout in Moscow.

Zappavigna, who lost his first world-title fight in 2011 but has won his past 10 fights with eight of the wins knockouts, is not looking beyond Lipinets.

"He's got power and that makes him dangerous," Zappavigna said.

"It's one of those fights you have to be smart, careful, take your time, pick him off and I'm sure I'll get him."

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