By Shaun Brown
Paul Appleby doesn’t need to look too far for inspiration. After two defeats in his last five fights some casual observers may think the writing is on the wall for the 24-year old Scot. However, as fellow countryman John Simpson has proved so often in the past, the numbers on your record can count for very little.
Speaking about his stablemate to BoxingScene at Billy Nelson’s ‘Fighting Scots’ gym, Appleby had this to say: “He’s unbelievable. I just need to look at John and the amount of times he’s lost and bounced back. He’s won the British title outright which is an amazing achievement. What he’s achieved makes it easy for me to keep going.”
Back in 2008, all Simpson had to do was beat the up and coming Appleby to claim the Lonsdale belt. At the time, his Edinburgh challenger was a brash, cocky, confident 20-year old who was dismissive of the champion’s granite reputation. Over 12 closely fought rounds it was the East Coast upstart that won win the title via a unanimous decision.
Scotland and Britain had a star in the making; the world was at Appleby’s feet. But after losing his title to the now MIA Martin Lindsay in 2009 and a horrible performance against Joseph Laryea at the tail end of 2010, there were signs that his career may have peaked too soon.
With a new trainer came a new lease of life. Appleby and Nelson travelled down to London last September to not only headline the opening night of boxing channel ‘Boxnation’, but to also play their part in one of Britain’s fights of 2011 when challenging Liam Walsh for his Commonwealth super featherweight crown.
A partisan York Hall crowd were left holding their breath when the champion went down in the seventh round. Walsh dragged himself up and force the Scotsman backwards, and as both men slugged it out Appleby was forced to retire as both Nelson and cornerman Dean Powell decided to pull their soldier out of the trenches.
Powell would later remark: “At the end of the [10th] round when he got knocked down he got caught with a body shot. I was looking directly at him and his body language said, ‘I’m sold out.’ He’d given everything in a fantastic fight and when he walked back I just said to Billy ‘That’s it’.”
Four months on from that memorable night in the old sweatshop and Appleby has taken nothing but heart from the fight and his performance.
“To be honest, from that fight, I’ve got my confidence back and that’s what I needed because I was lacking in that beforehand,” said Appleby. “I know I can beat anyone at that weight, if I’m right, so I’m definitely feeling good about my boxing.”
Whilst a rematch isn’t far away from his thoughts, the Scot must take on a fellow Celt in Stephen Ormond when the pair meet on the undercard of Ricky Burns v Paulus Moses at Braehead Arena on March 10 for the Celtic super featherweight title.
The Irishman, initially pencilled in to face Kevin Mitchell at lightweight, holds an unbeaten record and stands in the way of a rematch with Walsh or possibly even a British title shot against Gary Buckland.
Appleby knows what will be in store for him.
“He’s a good fighter, a proper fighter and that’s what he basically is,” his opinion of Ormond. “He just comes forward and he’ll try and be in my face but I’ll stand with him and fight with him. I don’t think he’ll be able to hack it. I think it’s going to be a brilliant fight.”
And as I questioned him on why he gets involved, sometimes unnecessarily, in slug fests rather than using his boxing abilities he freely admitted that against Ormond he will have to be a bit more smarter than he has been in the past.
“You’re right, I do,” he concurred. “Sometimes I neglect my jab and don’t throw it enough and it’s going to be very important for this fight because Ormond’s quite short. I’ll need to use it a lot more in this fight.”
After an up and down last couple of years, Britain’s former young boxer of the year candidly admitted that this year has the old make or break tag wrapped around it. Another defeat for Appleby could spell a new stage in his career where he is seen as a stepping-stone, a gatekeeper to greater riches for those on the way up. The Scot is confident that won’t happen.
“I’m determined to show people that I’m not just an opponent and that I’m still up there. I need to win this fight and it’s very important that I do win. 2012 is going to be my year and I’ll win all the fights I’m involved with this year, starting with Ormond.”
It’s surprising to find that despite turning only 25 this July, Appleby has ridden some rough waves already on boxing’s turbulent seas. A rising star that became a domestic champion at just 20 he was then rumoured to have been one win away from a world title shot against then IBF featherweight champion Cristobal Cruz when meeting Lindsay.
And after a bad day at the office against Laryea, there have so many emotions and experiences felt after only 20 professional fights [17-3 (11)]. When speaking to him he was keen to stress that he’s taken all of them, good and bad, and transferred them into a positive ahead of what is a crucial stage in his career.
He said: “The amount of experience I have for my age is unbelievable. Having that so early is vital but I do think I should’ve achieved a lot more than I have by now. I’ve been unlucky, I haven’t always made the right decisions but I’ve definitely learned.”
The talk soon returned to a rematch with Liam Walsh.
“I want the rematch but I don’t think he wants it. I can understand why he wouldn’t want the rematch, to be honest, because he’s the champion and even though he did beat me I think he knows I can hurt him with one single punch. I think he’s being clever not fighting me again.
“He did well to get up and beat me so I give him a lot of credit for that. But I’d be even better next time if I fought him. I’d be stronger and I know I can hurt him. I’d be even more confident. I’ll definitely beat him next time. When I beat this guy Ormond I’ll call him (Walsh) out after it on the television. A rematch with Walsh has to happen and it will. I want the fight and I want the title.”