Rotherham boxing derby: Atif Shafiq confident he will beat Lee Appleyard at Sheffield Arena on Kell Brook show

Atif Shafiq and Manchester fighter Terry Flanagan, in Fuertaventura
Atif Shafiq and Manchester fighter Terry Flanagan, in Fuertaventura
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Atif Shafiq says his Rotherham derby fight with Lee Appleyard will be the most important fight of his career - and the most dangerous.

The pair meet on the Kell Brook undercard at Sheffield Arena, on March 3.

And the Ingle man knows he will have to be at his best to beat the English Lightweight champion.

Speaking from a two-week training camp in Fuertaventura, he said: “On paper Lee is the toughest opponent I will have faced. His strengths are that he has very good straight shots and is experienced but his weaknesses are that he lacks variety in his boxing.

“He does the basics well - that is about it.

“This is the most important fight of my career by far. This is the fight where I make a name for myself and get in the British title mix. My name will be mentioned as one of the best lightweights in the country.”

Lee Appleyard piles on the pressure against Steve Brogan. Picture: Dean Woolley

Lee Appleyard piles on the pressure against Steve Brogan. Picture: Dean Woolley

Shafiq, 24, and his six years older rival, won’t dispute Appleyard’s belt.

“I think Lee is vacating the English title so it will only be for one of the WBA belts” said Shafiq.

“He had a mandatory to box. So it was either box the mandatory on a small hall show or box me in a local derby live on Sky...”

Shafiq has had to overcome a nasty arm injury and a stoppage loss to Andreas Maier, last year.

“Physically and mentally I am in the best place I’ve ever been. My confidence is through the roof” he says.

“After going through what I’ve been through over the last two years with my injury and the defeat in my first fight back, I believe that would have broken most people so that gives me confidence knowing I’ve been through the lows of life and have pushed through them.

“My style is developing all the time as I am maturing but I feel I am the strongest I’ve ever been physically and mentally.”

Shafiq admits he will have some butterflies in his stomach on the night but adds: “I’m not the kind of person that gets nervous. I’ll be excited to get in there and put on a show knowing I’ve done everything that needed to be done in training.

“Once I win on March 3rd I want to continue to step up and push for the British title towards the end of the year.”

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