Lee Appleyard knows he is up against it on Saturday night when he takes on Dalton Smith at the Manchester Arena. But that’s just how the Rotherham man likes it. Appleyard is simply put, a throwback fighter who has absolutely no time for anything considered an easy fight.
Appleyard (16-5-1, 5 KOs) has an opportunity to become the English super-lightweight champion if he can pull off the upset and derail the hype that is surrounding Smith, and he is certain he has what it takes to do just that. And the 33-year-old is more than content to pile the pressure on his unbeaten opponent.
He told Boxing Social: “It’s not an easy fight but it is what it is. I always get the hard fights and that’s what I’m geared up for with Dalton. I’m under no illusions as to how good he is. But I honestly believe I’m good enough to beat him. I’ve got a bigger heart, I’ve been in there in those hard fights and done it. It sounds strange to say out loud, but I’ve got no doubts whatsoever that I’m going to beat Dalton.
“He’s the one with all the pressure on him and he’s going to have to deal with that. When it gets harder and I’m still there, he’s going to have to answer some questions. There’s no expectation on me, so what have I got to lose?”
It will be a return to action that Appleyard has been craving for some time now. He has been out of action since November 2019 when he beat Ben Fields over 10 rounds and then saw a proposed date at the end of March last year fall through as the country was plunged into lockdown.
Appleyard remained in the gym and ready to go at any time, in case the call came in. Fights were made, but fell through. Finally, he got the date he wanted to face Smith in February, but Covid struck him personally. Now though, he’s recovered and is confident the timing is perfect for him.
There will be no animosity between camps, as both teams are very close. But Appleyard promises that come fight night that will have all gone out of the window.
He explained: “It’s just a relief to be fighting again. The first setback was missing out on my fight date last year on March 28t when we first got locked down. Then I had a fight sorted with Joe Laws, which fell apart, then another which fell apart and I can’t even remember who that was against.
“Then the fight with Dalton was booked for the first time and I got Covid. I knew this was all agreed and had to happen, so I’m glad it finally is. I’m confident. I’ve been ticking over all year and I’ll have no rust. My last two spars will have been harder than his last two fights. There’s going to be no excuses. May the best man win.
“There’s no need for any bullshit between the camps. Both camps know each other well. We’ll bump into each other in the bubble and have a laugh but come fight it’ll be serious. There’s going to be two nice kids in the ring together, showing kindness isn’t a weakness, simply battering the hell out of each other. I can’t wait.”
Appleyard has seen the boxing landscape change in his enforced time away from the ring. The time for padding a record out looks to be a thing of the past and risks are being taken by many fighters, with not all of them coming off. Appleyard is looking to become the latest fighter to add his name to the upset column.
The cancellation of their first fight is something that Appleyard believed has worked in his favour. As instead of short notice, he has been fully focused and able to prepare for Smith and with no crowd urging them on, the throwback is expecting it to be an intriguing fight on Saturday.
“Fights that weren’t happening before are now having to happen,” he said. “I’m sure Dalton and his team probably wanted a couple more fights ideally before fighting me. No one wanted to fight him though, so I’m the last straw because I was always prepared for this one. They gave me three weeks last time. Now I’ve had 10 weeks. This is going to open doors for me, but I can’t look past him. And he can’t look past me.
“As I’ve already said, I’ve been in there when it gets really hard. That’s normal for me. I know what to expect and I’ve been on the big stage. This is nothing new, apart from being behind closed doors. To be honest, it’ll work in my benefit, as when I’ve got a crowd in, I sometimes box too them and the noise influences me to take risks. Not this time.”
Urging Appleyard on will be Stefy Bull, his manager, who will be a busy man on Saturday, as his other fighter Jason Cunningham fights Gamal Yafai for the European super-bantamweight crown. Bull is well aware that it will be an uphill task for Appleyard, but he is confident that his man has what it takes.
“Dalton is arguably the best prospect in British boxing, but he wasn’t fighting Lee. Lee is the mandatory to the English title after he beat Ben Fields and he’s got the added incentive of trying to become a two-weight English champion. Lee is a proper title fighter and he’s ready for whatever comes his way, whether it’s a one-round war or a long, 10 rounds.
“I’m proud of him and what he’s done through the pandemic. He’s had numerous setbacks but he’s not moaned once. He’s just got on with it. He hates easy fights, so he’s a throwback and I do believe that on his day, he’s good enough to beat anyone domestically. He’s relentless and although we have total respect for Dalton’s talents, we’re going to have to see him put it all on the line.”
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.