Timing and underrated power the key for Rees according to Lockett
By Terence Dooley
Gavin Rees has it all to do at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night when he challenges Adrien Broner for the WBC lightweight title. Broner is viewed as the heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather’s P4P crown; the 23-year-old from Ohio is fast, flash, brash and can certainly talk a good fight. Indeed, the Big Boi from Outkast lookalike has told people that he will shine come Saturday night, leaving Rees in the unenviable position of having to find a way to block this shine or else have to listen to Broner babble on.
Rees, though, is an experienced campaigner; he has held the WBA light-welterweight world title and is a dominant force at lightweight in the U.K. — well, if you remove WBO titlist Ricky Burns from the mix. The 32-year-old’s run of British and European title wins led to this chance of a lifetime against Broner. The Welshman has repeatedly insisted that he has the tools to deal with “The Problem” and doesn’t look one bit fazed by the task ahead.
Gary Lockett, Rees’s trainer, has always maintained that his charge has an underrated jab, all-round ability and power. The former middleweight world title challenger lost in three-rounds when meeting then-champion Kelly Pavlik in 2008, but the highly-rated coach has always insisted that “The Rock” has a lot more in his locker than just work rate and determination.
“Because Gavin’s so short [5’ 4’’] and fast he can get the timing right and out-box taller guys on the jab,” said Locket, who has also paid tribute to the power Rees has shown during his lightweight run.
“I can’t put into words how hot it was in there when he fought [Anthony] Mezaache [a seventh-round TKO win when defending the EBU title in France last March]. We were dying just standing there during the national anthems and couldn’t imagine what it would be like for the boxers. At that point, I thought the fight wouldn’t go past eight or nine rounds because of the heat. The game plan went out the window after Gavin wobbled Mezaache in the first round. Gavin can punch at this weight.”
Rees, 37-1-1 (18), used to be trained by Enzo Calzaghe, he won the WBA 140lb title under Calzaghe, but lost the title in his first defence after being utterly out-classed and then stopped in the 12th by Andriy Kotelnyk. He joined Lockett when Enzo retired from the sport. Known for being a bit of a wild child during his younger days, Gavin was a mature man by the time he walked into Lockett’s gym.
“When he came to me his attitude had changed as he was older, had lost his WBA world title, but was coming off a Prizefighter win [Rees won Prizefighter: The Light-Welterweights tournament in 2009] so had another chance. Gavin’s been a bit of a boy in the past, who hasn’t? Some of us are luckier than others as we act a certain way when we’ve had a drink. Others might not. He may have been a little bit leery in the past, but he’s a good lad, trains like a maniac and does what I ask him to do.”
Still, it is going to be tough for Rees come Saturday night. Broner, 25-0 (21), is on a run of five stoppage wins and looks a star in the making. Sure, the 23-year-old’s trash talk is excruciatingly vapid, stilted and compleltely devoid of wit, but his boxing has an edge to it and he is on the rise.
The biggest positive for Rees is that Broner is still a work-in-progress. The former star amateur is no Floyd Mayweather, and is unlikely to ever come close to Mayweather’s level of ability due to pedestrian footwork and a tendency to load up on his shots, but he has mixed in good company and wins over Daniel Ponce De Leon, Jason Litzau and Antonio DeMarco, in only his second title fight up at 135lbs, are not to be sniffed at.
On the negative side, his WBO super featherweight title run didn’t set the world alight and he was stripped of the title on the scales when failing to make weight for a defence against Vicente Escobedo last July. Plus his technique still lacks a little bit of polish, which could see Rees do well early in the fight if he can establish his own jab.
So, and unlike many of our American cousins, us Brits haven’t quite got a boner for Broner, but he has pricked our interest enough to keep us up on Saturday night/Sunday morning to take in a fight that would be remembered as a major upset if Rees gets his rhythmic technique going and celebrates his 40th career fight by grabbing his biggest-ever win.
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