By Shaun Brown
Derry Mathews was at the Kelvin Hall for John Simpson versus Paul Appleby on Friday night. After taking in a six-round war between two men Mathews classes as friends, the Liverpudlian predicted something similar for next week’s British and European title fight against Gavin Rees.
Mathews is a rejuvenated man after backing up his pre-fight talk and dispatching Anthony Crolla in round six to take his British lightweight title just under ten-weeks ago. That night, the challenger was a heavy underdog going into the fight with a champion already being tipped for greater heights.
“I told everyone what I was gonna do against Crolla and I did it,” said Mathews when speaking to BoxingScene. “The fans, the bookies, people who write columns in newspapers never gave me a chance. Anthony had never been tested, never been hit like I can hit and I proved everyone wrong.”
The new British champion was in Glasgow to watch John Simpson and Paul Appleby as well as wrapping up his training camp for his upcoming fight against Rees. This will be the second time they have fought after a technical draw concluded their first bout last November with Mathews sustaining a broken nose after an accidental clash of heads.
“Listen it was unfortunate but that’s boxing and now we’ve got another chance to do it,” said Mathews.
The fight takes place on a stacked show promoted by Matchroom Boxing in Sheffield headlined by Kell Brook’s IBF world title eliminator against Carson Jones.
“This fight with Rees is worthy of top billing itself,” he remarked. “It’s gonna be a war. I won’t have to go far to find me and I won’t have to go far to find him.”
Last time out Mathews brought the kitchen sink and the rest of the house to Anthony Crolla and fought like a man who knew that losing would spell the end of a rollercoaster professional career. When I commented on the way he fought during that fight I wondered if he would revert to similar tactics and mindset for the Rees fight.
“I think so,” he replied. “I know what’s at stake if I win and if I don’t. I’ve had a great camp up here in Scotland, been treated brilliantly by the people up here and I’ve been doing some hill running in Spain. There are no excuses for me.”
With a fighter never keen to look far ahead, Mathews was happy to tell BoxingScene that should he beat Rees he will not fight again until December. One eye has already been cast at a rematch with Italian Emiliano Marsili, the current IBO champion who did a bit of a job on “Dirty” in front of his fans at the turn of the year.
“I wouldn’t mind that fight being in Italy,” said Mathews. “When you fight at home, not only is the pressure on but there’s so much to organise for other people too. Like [fellow Scouser] Tony Bellew I’m a great ticket seller, but I do well when I’m in someone else’s backyard with no-one giving me a prayer.”
“I want a rematch with Marsili because if I’m honest I didn’t have a very good camp for the first one [Mathews left then-trainer Oliver Harrison and returned to his former coach Danny Vaughan as well as Paul Weir for the Crolla fight.] I caught a couple of bugs as well, but no excuses the better man won on the night.”
And speaking of rematches would he entertain the idea of giving Crolla an opportunity to right the wrong that he suffered?
He said: “Of course, they were good enough to give me a shot so I’d be happy to repay them. I do think Crolla took his eye off the ball with me. They were looking at fights with Ricky Burns and to be honest he’s not on that level as I proved against him. But if I beat Rees then me against Ricky, if he beats Kevin Mitchell on September, is something I’d be interested in.”
As Derry returned to his seat he was within touching distance of the current WBO lightweight champion who sat a row in front of him at ringside. Mathews’s big hope is that he gets closer to Burns’s level in coming months and ends up touching gloves with the titlist in a major domestic world title showdown before too long.