GARY Buckland defeated former world champion Gavin Rees via a split decision in their British lightweight title eliminator at Cardiff's Motorpoint Arena.

St Joseph's fighter Buckland, himself a former British super-featherweight champ, took the judges' verdict, winning 116-113 and 115-114 on two scorecards, while the third had Rees winning it 116-113.

After 12 brutal rounds the pair, close friends outside the ring, embraced and the bout could easily have been drawn but Newbridge veteran Rees now faces a decision over his future in the sport after a third straight defeat.

Rees, who lost to Adrien Broner and Anthony Crolla last year, said beforehand that he would quit if he lost to Buckland but he may be tempted by a quick rematch after an enthralling encounter in front of a packed house in the capital.

After a nightmare 2013, during which he lost his title by KO to Stephen Smith in the same venue, this was a brilliant return to form in a certain fight of the year contender.