NEWPORT will tonight stage the biggest boxing show in the city for nearly half a decade as Gavin ‘The Rock’ Rees looks to get back on the gold trail at a venue where he is undefeated.
The quality on show promises to be a match for the 2006 Frank Warren bill that featured Rees, Gary Lockett, Nathan Cleverly and Bradley Pryce.
Rees, the former WBA light-welterweight world champion, has only lost once in 33 fights and is looking to claim a first British title, tackling Liverpool’s big hitting John Watson for the vacant lightweight strap.
It’s a ding-dong fight with Watson undefeated, the kind that has the potential to be a cracking all-British main event, live on Sky television as well.
Rees, who walked a tough looking light welterweight version of Prizefighter last year, has a perfect record in Newport having won five fights, three of them inside the distance.
Tonight promises to be an altogether tougher evening, Watson the highest calibre of fighter Rees has faced since Amir Khan victim Andriy Kotelnik took his world title belt in 2008 in Cardiff.
The bookies are having a degree of trouble splitting the boxers as they ponder whether to back the age and experience of 30-year-old Rees against Watson’s size and reach advantage.
Watson’s camp are adamant that the Newbridge fighter is on the slide now and that he’s overrated anyway, but I see this fight as being a clear-cut victory for the former Team Calzaghe stand-out.
The pint-sized Gwent puncher is an unusual animal in that his biggest problems in the sport have been entirely of his own making, a lack of discipline, bad diet and a self-confessed alcohol issue stopping him reaching his full potential.
That Rees is still fighting and has a fantastic record speaks volumes for just how talented he is.
Wiser decisions in the past decade should’ve put him at the level of say a Nathan Cleverly by now because boxing comes just as naturally to him.
Thankfully, at the age of 30 and with children to support, the penny seems to have dropped for Rees under the strict guidance of Lockett.
Rees’ weight is being checked on a weekly basis and he looks far more natural as a lightweight where his devastating tenacity and unrelenting style can come to the fore.
Watson has never been the championship distance and can only rely on a reach advantage and safety-first jabbing strategy for so long and Rees will capitalise.
Expect this one to end via stoppage in the middle to late rounds, Rees capturing the British title that can be a first step on a two or three-year ascent.
Put simply, Watson won’t be able to deal with Rees’ body shots, still among the best in British boxing.
Another Lockett pupil, Talywain’s Jeff Evans should also be a victor in a valuable four-rounder, while the experience of Jason Cook versus the talent of Barrie Jones makes for a fascinating scrap for the Welsh light-welterweight title.
However, chief undercard interest comes in the shape of Rees’ best pal Pryce, who tangles with the ring rusty but dangerous Michael Lomax.
This is an ideal fight of Pryce who needs both the rounds and the victory on offer and I expect him to take both, this eight rounder likely to go the distance with Pryce the clear favourite, he too in the shape of his life under Lockett.