Rees-Kotelnik - Will Rees Make A Successful First Title Defence?

By James Slater: Both men have weighed-in at the light-welterweight limit of 140 pounds, and tomorrow night in Cardiff, Wales, WBA light-welterweight champion Gavin Rees, who will be boxing in his backyard, and his Ukrainian challenger Andreas Kotelnik, will square off over a scheduled 12 rounds of action..

The 27-year-old Rees, who captured the WBA belt with an upset points win over Frenchman, Souleymane M'Baye last July, is expected by his countrymen to hold onto his title. But it won't be easy. The 30-year-old Kotelnik, who M'Baye actually drew with at one point, is no slouch, and he has come to Wales looking for Rees' world title. Unbeaten in his last five, since a close points loss to another British fighter in current WBC light-welterweight king Junior Witter, Kotelnik is confident he will take the WBA strap.

With his 28-2-1(12) record, Kotelnik, who has never been stopped, is without a doubt a very tough first challenger for a young champion such as Rees. The Ukrainian fighter, who was an accomplished amateur, may be no big puncher, but neither is champion Rees. What we almost certainly have then is a distance fight. But who will emerge the winner?

Kotelnik, though he is the challenger, has undeniably met the better class of opposition and is the more experienced fighter ( although he has actually boxed as a pro two years less than his opponent). But the Enzo Calzaghe trained Rees, 27-0(13) is in no mood at all to give up his new title. Also, to add to the potential rewards a win for the defending champion will mean, unbeaten super prospect Amir Khan is reportedly waiting in the wings as Rees' next challenger should the Welshman prevail tomorrow evening.

In short, the stakes could not be higher for either man, particularly Rees. I believe the defending champion will rise to the occasion and use the pressure that is on his shoulders to gain extra motivation. This will surely see the 27-year-old to victory. The fight may not be the most aesthetically pleasing fight of the year, but Rees' hometown fans will be happy for any kind of win from their man - which this writer feels they will receive.

After the bad luck Wales' other boxing hero got two weeks ago - in the outgunned Enzo Maccarinelli - a Rees win will no doubt restore a nation's fighting pride.

Article posted on 22.03.2008

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