Gavin Rees says his dream of becoming a two-weight World champion will begin with victory against Andy Murray in their June 4 fight for the vacant European Lightweight title in Cardiff.
The 31 year-old claimed the WBA light-welterweight crown in 2007 and returns to fight in the Welsh capital for the first time in over three years against the unbeaten Belfast prospect in the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff.
The Newbridge fighter takes on Irish man Andy Murray from Cavan live on Sky Sports on a great night for British boxing, as Carl “The Cobra” Froch puts his WBA super middleweight title on the line against Glen Johnson in Atlantic City, also live on Sky in the early hours of Sunday June 5.
Rees has been out of action for seven months after winning the British title against John Watson in Newport in November, but after a successful operation on the nose problem that forced him out of his rematch with Watson, Rees is raring to put on a great show in his backyard.
“A big Welsh crowd behind me in Cardiff is going to be a boost, no doubt about it,” said Rees. “It's always great to box in front of your home fans and although it's just going to be me and Andy in the ring when the bell goes and I'm 100 per cent confident that my boxing ability will see me through.
“Andy hasn't really been televised live in Britain because he's mainly boxed in Ireland so I've only really seen him on YouTube. He's a bit like Watson - a tall, upright boxer who will look to out-jab me but I showed what a great jab I've got in that fight and I'll prove it again with Andy.”
Gavin’s last fight in Cardiff ended in defeat against Andriy Kotelnik in the same venue in his first defence of the WBA title in March 2008 – the only defeat on his record. ‘The Rock’ returned to action with a great win in Prizefighter in west London in December 2009 and further victories against Abdoulaye Soukouna and Sam Amoako preceded is British title win. The break from the ring has given Rees the hunger to go back for main titles – and having to relinquish the British strap could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
“The next step is World level for me, the Commonwealth is there too but I want to fight for a World title and become a two-weight World champion,” said Rees. “I want to win this European title, get World ranked with the bodies and get a shot. The winner of Kevin Mitchell and John Murray's fight will get a World title fight so maybe I could fight the winner of that.
“John Murray has chosen to box Mitchell which is fair enough, but I need to concentrate on Andy who is a talented kid and I'm not looking past that, but the two-weight World champion goal is something I really want.
“It was disappointing having to vacate as after that I really wanted to push on and win it outright. But giving it up has actually worked out well because I've now got the European shot and I want to get back to World level as I'm 31 now and I would've had to hang around British level for a year. Now I plan on winning this European title and hopefully moving to a World title shot by the end of the year.”
Rees is urging Welsh fight fans to snap up tickets for the Cardiff show, with Cefn Forest’s Robbie Turley challenging Carl Frampton for the Belfast man’s Celtic super bantamweight title and fellow Welsh fighters Jason Cook, Frankie Borg, Jamie Ambler, Chris Ware and Joe Jones also taste action. The main attraction on the night is excited about the future of boxing in Wales and also reacted to the news that Juergen Braehmer had denied Rees’ former gym pal Nathan Cleverley a World title shot.
“Welsh boxing is buzzing at the moment,” said Rees. “I'm fighting for a European title, Bradley Pryce is going for the Inter-Continental strap, Enzo Maccarinelli is coming back into the scene so hopefully we can all get pushing for World titles soon which would be great for Welsh boxing, to go back to the days when Joe (Calzaghe), Enzo and I were all World champions.
“Nathan has been more or less given the belt and he wanted to win it in the ring, but who cares? He's champion of the World and he won the interim belt so he's there on merit and Braehmer is making excuses like he has before so you cannot do anything about it. I know that Nathan will go out and prove that he's a worthy World champion in his next fights – be it on Saturday or somewhere down the line.”
Tickets for the Gavin Rees v Andy Murray European title clash and full undercard are now on sale priced £30 unreserved and £50 ringside from the Motorpoint Arena Box-Office on 02920 224488. For VIP packages contact Sport and Stage on 02920 234 567 www.sportandstage.com