ROTHERHAM'S Lee Appleyard steps into the lucrative Boxxer Series tomorrow night confident he can end it as the champion.
Eight super-lightweights will battle it out at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool for the title and a total prize pot of £40,000, the largest-ever for a one-night tournament.
Appleyard joins Ben Fields, Kane Gardner, Cori Gibbs, Sheffield's Levi Kinsiona and Liverpool trio Sean Dodd, Tom Farrell and Nathan Bennett at the big event, expected to be the first of many at different weights.
The fights will be explosive, quickfire three-rounders. There will be quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final to find a winner, with Appleyard paired with Kinsona in his quarter-final.
For Appleyard, at 33, the series is a chance to give his career a new lease of life and he believes his mix of experience, skill and fitness gives him a fantastic chance.
“Anybody can win this. It's a cracking line-up but I genuinely believe I win the competition,” he said. “Whichever three fighters I have to face on the night, I can think I will have something better.
“I am going in with that attitude and I'll stay with it.”
Appleyard's 17 pro wins include a victory over Fields two years ago and a points defeat to Dodd in a scrap for the Commonwealth lightweight belt back in 2017.
But the short format, similar to that used in the amateur ranks, demands that the boxers make the most of every single minute and it's a format Appleyard likes.
“It's kind of back to the amateur days but the judges will be scoring us like professional boxing, scoring the heavier shots and the aggressiveness etc,” said Lee.
“I would think the others have been sparring against amateurs in training because it is only three rounds, but it is basically a pro fight. It's straight out, bombs away.
“I have been a championship fighter for years and it is just about getting the first bout out of the way and a full understanding exactly what it is going to be like, how fast I have to start etc.
“Once I have done the quarter-final I will get into a rhythm.”
Appleyard's trainer, Stefy Bull, believes his man can go far.
“It suits Lee down to the ground,” he said. “It is a very evenly matched competition he can win.
“The man is relentless. He's a great personality, he will give 100 per cent and he deserves success on the big stage.”
Appleyard, in his usual tip-top shape, has eased off the training this week to make sure he is fresh for Saturday.
“This week has been about steering clear of flu, Covid or injury,” he added. “I'm now at the point where I'm getting no fitter. The weekend can't some soon enough.”
Saturday's action starts from 7.30pm, live on Sky Sports.