ROTHERHAM puncher Lee Appleyard believes this tonight’s (March 8) clash with unbeaten Kieran McLaren could make or break his career.
The 31-year-old former English lightweight champion has taken a number of tough tests in recent years and feels a slip up at the Barnsley Metrodome would significantly dent his title aspirations.
In contrast, a victory over an opponent with a 12-0 record would likely catapult him back up the domestic rankings and earn him a shot at his old bauble as this fight serves as an eliminator.
“This is a hit or bust fight for me,” Appleyard, 14-5 (5 KOs), said. “If I lose, it’s a long road back and if I win I’m straight back into the mix.
“I’ve got to treat this fight as my world title because if I don’t beat this kid, I don’t know where I’m going. I’m highly confident and I wouldn’t ask for these fights if I didn’t think I could beat him
“I want to be a champion before the end of the year. That’s my main aim. I want to win this fight and then challenge for the English again, which I expect Sam O’Maison to vacate and move on if he beats Kay Prospere. After that, who knows but there won’t any limits.”
Last November Appleyard dropped a contentious ten round points decision to Rochdale’s tricky Bilal Rehman in a Central Area title tussle.
Rather than smart about the decision, Appleyard dusted himself down and began planning his future by providing his promoter and manager Stefy Bull with a list of potential opponents.
“Obviously we wanted the rematch with Bilal. We tried everything and he didn’t want it. I said to Stefy ‘get me a good fight’ and I gave him a few names of fighters who are undefeated and he managed to get me McLaren,” Appleyard revealed.
“I could have come back with a four or six round fight but I don’t like to go into easy fights. I want the ones that’ll be entertaining for the fans.
“My mates say to me ‘why are you in another tough one Lee?’ but I want the real tests. It’s a short career and the only way you can progress is by fighting the best lads and from the losses I’ve had to good lads, I’ve gained experience.
“I’m happy with my career and I know that everything I’ve achieved, I’ve earned. I’ve done things the hard way and I’ve not been given any gimmees”.