Wales' pocket battleship looks to secure another major title shortly when he faces unbeaten Irishman Andy Murray, 24-0 (12ko). The European Lightweight title has been held by some good fighters and though often distracted for periods during his career, Gavin The Rock Rees 34-1, is a formidable opponent at the 9stone 9 limit.
I tend never to back against a fighter trained by John Breen and Eamonn Magee - both hard men in their own right - but I'm going for Rees work rate, hand speed and seasoning to be too much for young Irishman. Rees achieved so much at Light-Welterweight when clearly disadvantaged physically. The 31 year old is small in stature at Lightweight too but is a serious handful for most and aspirations of another world title fight are not beyond the realms of possibility. Now trained by Gary Lockett, Rees is reportedly in terrific shape and Murray will need to employ his reach and height advantages to good effect.
It suits Rees fighting taller guys, he uses these apparent disadvantages to his own benefit, dipping beneath shots and surprising opponents from distance with quick feet. Once part of the highly successful Calzaghe stable, he has had superior gym mates too. All points to a Rees victory but never underestimate a man who doesn't know how to lose.
Some early success for Murray with long left, Rees accustomed to negating that tool. Murray countering when Rees steps inside. He looks two weight classes bigger than his more established opponent. Rees seems to willing to leave his hands down, backing his reflexes. Rees some success in single shots with his hand-speed. Busier but some nice shots from Murray.
Some snappy work from Rees. Using hand-speed and better head movement to punish any Murray attacks very well. Heads come together. You feel Murray is waiting too long with the jab. Needs to double it up and step in behind it. Making it easier for Rees to counter, which he’s doing with reasonable success.
Neat left hook from Murray. Nice right hand from Murray too. Murray simply cannot find Rees with the lead jab but he has doubled it up more in this round. Rees slips inside to work the body. Heads coming together as Rees dives in. Just signs Murray is finding a little bit of range. Beautiful left uppercut from Rees. Good right from Rees, warming up as a contest. Tough contest for Cavan's Murray.
Everything seems to be in Rees hands here but unlike the TV pundits I still feel there will be a shift in momentum yet. Great hand-speed from the little Welshman. Murray falling short again. One wonders whether Rees could make Super-Featherweight too. Sensational head movement from Rees, using distance very well. Murray throws four and misses with all of them. Murray looking very raw this round.
Can Gavin Rees win a world title belt at Lightweight?
Murray beginning to look reddened beneath the right cheek. Rees still looking fresh, another fast jab from Rees. Murray reluctant to throw multiple punches, all straight when he does, Rees makes minor adjustment and either beats him to the punch or counters. Rees really begin to relish this, making Murray look naive.Rees lands big hooks and appeared to stiffen the young Irishman for a moment, but the bell intervened.
Murray sticking to the task, his strengths, catches Rees with right hand after more than minute of Rees making it look simple. Using head movement and upper body rolls to infuriating the Irishman. Rees landing good, heady shots, the right hands particularly. To be fair, he's held the shots. Keeps coming forward which is suiting Rees fast hands.
More of the same as Rees lands and executes on his game plan of moving and giving the Irishman angles he cannot react to.
First signs of a plateau in Rees' output. Murray still seems calm and collected in his work. Perhaps this is the shift in momentum or perhaps Rees resting before a big finish. Just a few signs in the face of Rees that he is feeling the pace of what he's put in so far.
Crowd gathering themselves as they sense a decline in Rees output. The Welshman deducted a point for holding. Looking jaded. Murray sensing it, he's never panicked. Rees fires back, doesn't want Murray on top of him, Murray still only throwing straight shots. Rees has some luck with short hooks. Rees biting down on the gum-shield here.
Finally doubling up that jab, making a big difference, though Rees easier to find. That sense of never backing against a Breen fighter is raising itself again. Fight getting messier, less clean shots, Murray needs it to be a bit cleaner to get his longer levers into action. Rees is determined but fighting in bursts. Solid short right from Rees. Murray simply cannot turn his punches round the corner, Rees getting on the inside.
Honesty from Lockett "in the balance". Rees still looks dangerous in bursts but Murray is shrugging off the shots. Murray failing to work, not landing enough, not throwing enough. For all the commentary, Rees still the one landing shots. Messy bout now, complete opposite from the opening rounds. Murray doesn't have the guile to get past Rees spoiling tactics. Bell. 173-97 punches landed.
Big right stiffens Murray slightly. Irishman pauses. Rees using all his experience, throwing himself into eye-catching combo's. Murray smothering and being smothered. Not many clean shots but none of them coming from Murray. Brave performance but he's lacked the craft or the variety to worry Rees.
Interesting fight, Rees raises his hands, Murray looks disconsolate. He gets plenty of applause from his own fans.
All three judges went for Newbridge's Gavin Rees, the right winner. Murray can come again. Gavin Rees has potential at this level.