8:20am Saturday 7th July 2012
By Michael Pearlman
WELSHMEN Gavin Rees and Kerry Hope know their hopes and dreams rest solely on their performances tonight as they both defend their European titles.
The new era of bigger and better live shows on Sky Sports from Matchroom Promotions means that whereas both Rees and Hope would’ve been headlining shows a year ago, they must now be content to be supporting acts on what should be a terrific show at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena.
Kell Brook’s world title eliminator with Carson Jones is an intriguing main event but it is the strength of the undercard Matchroom hope will make this a truly successful show.
It’s a huge rarity in British boxing for the undercard to potentially overshadow the headline act but even boxing bible Boxing News’ preview attributed three stars to the main event and five to the undercard.
Both of these European title clashes are hotly anticipated, mainly because both are rematches.
With Newbridge’s Rees it’s a case of the public hoping to see what they missed out on last time and with Hope it’s more a case of ‘same again please.’ Rees, now 32, and possibly on the home straight in terms of his career, knows a setback is simply unthinkable as he tackles Liverpool’s Derry Mathews for the second time.
Their previous encounter led to the only draw of Rees’ career (36-1-1) after Mathews was withdrawn midway through the fourth session with a dreadfully cut nose. Had the fight gone three minutes longer, Rees would’ve won on points, ahead as he was on all three cards.
Since then Rees has been to Paris and looked a million dollars in the destruction of Anthony Mezaache.
Those of us who have followed Rees’ career for a long time know exactly why his star is shining so bright and it’s not entirely down to trainer Gary Lockett.
The penny has finally dropped for Rees about how he lives his life outside of the ropes and his work with nutritionist, former Mr Wales champion Renzo Algieri, has been vital to his progress.
Make no mistake, Rees frittered away his last shot at glory when a ‘McDonald’s diet’, his words, led to him losing his world title at light-welterweight in his first defence, his only defeat to date.
Now campaigning at lightweight, Rees should have too much for Mathews whose only chance is to use his height and reach advantage and box at range.
Mathews has had all sorts of trouble in the past against body punchers and if he indulges in a tear-up, as he did last time out against Anthony Crolla, Rees can pick him apart as cumulative shots take their toll.
I expect this one to end in the middle rounds with Rees moving onwards to bigger and better things, namely the world title shot promised by his promoter Eddie Hearn.
Hope’s fight, the first defence of his European middleweight title, is too close to call as he heads for a rematch with Poland’s Grzegorz Proksa.
The Merthyr battler has had more setbacks and misfortune than most and his shock triumph in capturing the title was one of boxing’s true feel good moments.
Neither fighter possesses great power and it would seem likely this one will go the distance with the more hungry and determined boxer winning out.
Having battled and scraped to win the crown, I’ll tip Hope – who commutes to Bolton to train – to win an exceptionally tight fight on points, more in hope than absolute conviction.
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