TRAINER Gary Lockett believes the all-Welsh showdown between Gavin Rees and Gary Buckland is a win or bust occasion for both fighters.
And the former world title contender will urge his charge Rees to retire if he’s beaten at the Motorpoint Arena on February 1.
The duo, who Lockett estimates have “dozens of hours,” of sparring hours together in mind ahead of the fight, are competing on the Matchroom bill headlined by Lee Selby’s European and British title featherweight defence against Rendell Monroe.
Both boxers, who are friends outside of the ring, are coming off the worst spells of their respective careers.
For 33-year old Rees, defeated previously only once in 35 fights, 2013 saw him suffer successive losses to American Adrien Broner in Atlantic City and Anthony Crolla and endure shoulder and elbow injuries.
Buckland, 27, also had a torrid year. His long-standing ambition of winning a Lonsdale belt outright was snatched away as he was knocked cold by Stephen Smith with a blow chosen as knockout of the year in Boxing News.
And Buckland, now 27-3 from 30 fights, also saw a nice payday in Argentina vanish after rioting in the crowd led to his fight being cancelled while he sheltered in the dressing room.
And that is why Lockett believes it is boom or bust for the pair as they prepare for the clash that is something of a dream match for Welsh fight fans.
“I don’t think you can say anything else really, for the loser, it is probably the end of the road,” Lockett told the Argus.
“It’s not being dramatic, but certainly for Gavin, if he loses to Gary Buckland, where does he go from there?
“We respect Gary enormously as a fighter and as a person and I know he has the heart and courage of a lion and a great training team with Tony Borg.
“Gary is as tough as they come and on form you would say it is an even fight.
“But we feel Gavin has an advantage of both class and power but those are only words, it’s about what happens on the night.
“But certainly if Gavin losses, we’d be talking about retirement I’d suspect.”
Lockett reports Rees’ injuries, having had an operation on his elbow, are holding up well.
Buckland, who trains at Borg’s St Joseph’s gym in Newport, is determined his friendship with Rees won’t get in the way of business.
“Gavin Rees is a great fighter, I’m a big fan of his and it means me moving to lightweight, but I think I can cope with that,” he said.
“I’ve moved on from the Smith fight and I want to get back to winning ways against Gavin.
“He is a friend of mine, but you put that aside in the ring.”