Nobody knows better than Paul Appleby that tonight’s Commonwealth super-featherweight title challenge against Norfolk-based champion Liam Walsh is a true career crossroads fight.
The youngest-ever British featherweight champion back in 2008 and winner of the British Boxing Writers “Best Young Boxer of 2008’’, South Queensferry fighter Appleby was soon brought down to earth by a British title defeat to Irishman Martin Lindsay and then another loss against unheralded African Joseph Laryea, which scuppered plans to match Appleby with WBO super-featherweight champion Ricky Burns.
These losses make Appleby a man on a mission at London’s York Hall tonight when he faces Walsh. He said: “I lost to Lindsay and Laryea because I totally neglected using one of my best punches – my left jab – and tried to outfight them both. I now have a new trainer in Billy Nelson and I’m working harder on my fitness. Billy is great in giving me good tactical advice on how to deal with Walsh, who is a good boxer and hitter but I believe I can beat him tonight.
“I must use my boxing ability and not try to knock him out early – which is where I went wrong against Lindsay.’’
However, defending champion Walsh warned his opponent: “Appleby has been claiming he will use different tactics against me but one of my main strengths is my ability to adapt my fighting style and tactics during a fight. I still think Appleby will be a tough nut to crack but I have a six-month old son and family responsibilities and I want to secure that side of my life by eventually becoming a world champion and Appleby mustn’t be allowed to spoil that dream.’’
Meanwhile, Walsh’s trainer, Graham Everett, who coached two-time WBO heavyweight champion Herbie Hide, endorses his fighter’s view that Appleby’s challenge is just another step on the road to eventual world title glory for his man.
“He [Walsh] got a great opportunity against Appleby and he will take it. His work ethic is tremendous. We don’t dismiss Appleby, we have the utmost respect for him and we know he is a good kid. All being well, we’ll get past tonight and then we’ll look at the British title and more championship fights.”
Should Appleby win he will become the first Commonwealth super-featherweight champion from the Edinburgh area since his former mentor and sparring partner Alex Arthur did the trick in April 2005. But more significantly, with Ricky Burns relinquishing his WBO crown to step up a weight, a win for Appleby tonight could put him back in the frame for an eventual tilt at that title.