By Elliot Foster
Atif Shafiq staked a claim to be a big part of the lightweight mix after putting in a sensational display.
The 24-year-old Wincobank Gym fighter stopped Lee Appleyard in the fifth of 10 scheduled rounds at the FlyDSA Arena.
The pair met in an all-Rotherham derby in Sheffield, exclusively live on Sky Sports, as part of the undercard to Kell Brook’s return against Sergey Rabchenko for the vacant WBC Silver super-welterweight title.
And it was Brook’s gym-mate Shafiq who came out on top against former Commonwealth title challenger Appleyard as he scored four knockdowns and got his man out of there after Michael Alexander, the referee, had seen enough following the throwing in of the towel from Appleyard’s coach Stefy Bull.
Shafiq now believes he should be up there in the 135-pound division and said that he would like to be in the same conversations as the likes of Lewis Ritson, the British champion, and Sean Dodd, the Commonwealth champion who defends his belt against Tommy Coyle in Liverpool, at the ECHO Arena, next month, as part of the undercard of Amir Khan’s long-awaited return against Phil Lo Greco.
Meanwhile, Rocky Fielding is expected to return to the ring in a couple of months after kicking off his year with a win.
The 30-year-old super-middleweight, who recently relinquished both the British and Commonwealth titles at the weight, was in action in Sheffield, as part of a Sky Sports-aired card.
Fielding moved to 26-1 with a points win over Karel Horejsek (79-74) at the FlyDSA Arena on the undercard of Kell Brook’s return against Sergey Rabchenko.
He was set to see action on the undercard of Tony Bellew’s May 5 heavyweight grudge rematch against David Haye at the O2 Arena in London, with his addition to the card expected to be rubber-stamped after the win, but his promoter Eddie Hearn instead revealed that talks have begun with Top Rank with a view to Fielding challenging Gilberto Ramirez for the WBO title at 168 pounds in June.
And Leigh Wood kicked off the show with an early win against Rafael Castillo to move to 20-1.