By James Slater – Welsh warrior Gavin Rees was understandably disappointed when his scheduled December rumble with John Murray fell apart due to the Manchester man failing a pre-fight medical, and the only thing that kept his spirits up was his promoter Eddie Hearn’s vow to get him a major title fight in early 2013. Well, Hearn (for my money 2012’s boxing promoter of the year) has delivered: getting “The Rock” a February 16th shot at reigning WBC lightweight king and current hotshot Adrien Broner.
Rees, the former WBA light-welterweight champ, wrote on Twitter: “Time for me to become a two-weight world champ.”
Hearn told BBC Sport that “terms have been agreed with the American’s camp, Golden Boy Promotions.”
As fans know, there was a chance undefeated Broner would face Scottish hero and current WBO lightweight boss Ricky Burns next, but that particularly intriguing match-up must go on the backburner, for now at least. Broner Vs. Rees is almost as exciting-looking a match-up though.
32-year-old Rees, 37-1-1(18) has not fought in America before, although the Newbridge man is unlikely to be phased at the prospect of travelling to Atlantic City. Rees has won in the other guy’s backyard before, when he retained the European belt against Frenchman Anthony Mezaache in March, and his fighting approach is likely to be the same against Broner; despite the 23-year-old’s sparkling reputation – unbeaten as Broner is in 25 fights, 21 wins coming early.
Rees, as strong and bull-like as imaginable, can be relied upon to take the heat right to the Floyd Mayweather Junior clone (“Money,” by the way, being a fighter Broner says he will never fight) and it will be interesting to see how Broner copes. Remember, Broner is not the finished article quite yet, and not too long ago, Mexican slugger Daniel Ponce De Leon pushed him very hard in losing a competitive decision (the scores were unanimous, yet many good judges felt the Mexican was perhaps hard done by). Rees has a great engine, he has, as his nickname suggests, a rock of a chin and he can go to the body well.
Broner has looked sensational, particularly against Antonio DeMarco last time out, but has he ever faced anyone with the ability to use educated and relentless pressure the kind of which the Welshman can dish out? Of course, Rees has never met anyone with the silky skills and the seemingly impregnable defence of Broner. Rees, too, is not that hard to hit. Broner, with his blinding accuracy, can definitely hurt his opposition.
Rees must make it his fight from the get-go, he must bully Broner and not let him either breathe or have space to pick his shots. At the same time, Rees, who has fallen victim to facial injuries in his exciting career, must avoid as much punishment as he can. At age 32, Rees’ stamina many not be what it once was, and the challenger has, in the past, faded somewhat in the later rounds of a 12-rounder; but the motivation levels will be massive for Rees in this one.
The classy Andriy Kotelnik halted Rees late on back in March of 2008 (in the 12th and final round for Rees’ sole stoppage defeat), but the British and European ruler feels he is stronger at and more suited to the lightweight division (remember, Rees is only 5’7,” interestingly, the same height as Broner). If Broner can do what Kotelnik did and get Rees out of there, the Cincinnati star will have made a statement. But injuries aside (cut eyes or a broken nose for example), I can see a determined, aggressive and smart Rees taking Broner to the final bell.
It sure would be some great result (for British boxing, anyway) if Rees were to score the upset and ruin both Broner’s unbeaten record and the Ricky Burns fight! I’m sure even Burns himself would congratulate Rees.