LEE Appleyard is comfortable with his underdog's tag for Saturday's English title scrap with fast-rising prospect Dalton Smith, saying: “All the pressure is on him.”
The Rotherham fighter will be the rank outsider when he steps into the ring to take on the much-touted Sheffielder at the AO Arena Manchester, live on Sky Sports.
The city's most successful amateur boxer has taken all his promise into the pro ranks, knocking out six of his seven opponents so far.
At 24, he is also nine years Appleyard's junior and has youth on his side as well as the weight of Eddie Hearn's Matchroom stable behind him.
Appleyard, though, says he has worked himself into the best condition of his life at Stefy Bull's gym at Denaby and has the skill, strength and experience to grab a victory which could eclipse any of his 22-fight pro career.
“It would be a massive upset if I won,” said the Bramley super-lightweight. “Bookies have me at 12/1 and he's 1/25 on, which is great because it takes all the pressure off me.
“No-one is expecting me to do anything but more fool them because I'm in cracking condition. I'm ready.
“All the pressure is on him and there are a lot of unanswered questions because he has never gone past five rounds.
“I have to take him to unknown places (the later rounds) and if that happens he'll start questioning himself.
“If a stoppage comes then he'll be going straight away it I catch him. It's like they say, you don't get paid for overtime. You get paid regardless.”
Lee Appleyard at press conferrence.
Thanks to sponsors, Appleyard has been able to take a break from his job as a self-employed window salesman and pour all his energy into his training camp.
“I have never been this fit and that is down to having a proper camp,” he said.
“I train and then I come home and rest up and get back in the gym and train again. The preparation has been perfect.
“I have been a full-time pro, training all the time. It has made a massive difference.
“My dad works in the offices and he said, 'take time off and when you're done we'll get you back on the road again.'
“Mind you, if I beat Dalton then I'll be getting a deal with Matchroom hopefully and I won't have to go back to work!”
Due to a combination of the pandemic and the postponement of the original February date for the fight when he contracted Covid-19, Appleyard hasn't fought for 18 months.
In contrast, former Team GB man Smith has been relatively busy, fighting twice last year and once since the turn of the year.
While ring rust could be a factor for Appleyard, he counters the argument with the amount of hard sparring rounds he's racked up in the gym.
“In my time out I have been in the gym having proper, competitive spars against good boxers. They're as good as fights,” he said.
“Dalton might have had one or two fights in the time I have been out but he has knocked out guy kid in two or three rounds and the other in four or five. He has not even done as many rounds as a ten-round spar — and against kids who haven't really come to fight. I dare say one of my spars has been harder than Dalton's last two fights. Being out of the ring doesn't bother me at all.”
Appleyard has won 16, lost five and drawn one of his pro bouts. He also won the English lightweight belt four years ago before stepping up a division and fancies a repeat.
He added: “I'm movitated to become a two-weight Enlglish champion and I don't think anyone has done that from Rotherham before.
“After this fight I'll look to push on from there and win another major title, that's the aim.”
The bill is topped by Joshua Buatsi's clash with Daniel Blenda Dos Santos, a fellow unbeaten contender, for the WBA International Light-Heavyweight Title.
There is also a triple-header of European Title fights with Gamal Yafai defending his Super-Bantamweight Title for the first time against Jason Cunningham , Tommy McCarthy defending his Cruiserweight crown against Romania’s Alexandru Jur and Lerrone Richards taking on Italy’s Giovanni De Carolis for the vacant Super-Middleweight strap,