Alan Dawson – London
The European ruler of the lightweight division, Gavin Rees, 32, added a Lonsdale belt to his honours roll as, on Saturday, July 7 at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, The Rock proved too hard, too tough and too powerful when he was thrown at challenger Derry Mathews. In an even battle for a number of rounds, Rees emerged on top when he closed the show in the ninth round, punctuating a 2012 British belter of a brawl.
Official verdict: Rees by way of 9Rd TKO.
Ignoring the calls of support for Mathews (30-7-1, 16ko) from the Motorpoint masses, Rees (37-1-1, 18ko) broke out of a tentative shell in the first minute of the opening session to hound on Dirty Derry with a dog-like aggression, hooking in short-range shots with abundance and causing light bleeding from the nose. That good work, though, was negated by a strong finish to the stanza from Mathews, who rocked Rees with a strong punch moments from the bell.
In round two, Rees continually struggled to find rhythm and often was seen swinging and missing and was caught with the well-placed straight right from the Liverpudlian. Those mistakes, though, appeared rectified by the third round and, in a turn of events, it was Mathews who showed vulnerability. Rees clocked his man with right fists over the top, stalking him, punishing him with shots to the body and trapping him against one of the two neutral corners. Derry, 28, rallied and, with blood spewing from the corner of his left eyebrow due to an accidental head clash, goaded Rees onto him and roused the crowd with his machismo.
While Rees sought to establish the classic one-two of an orthodox jab introducing the straight right, his lead shot was often found wanting. This was in stark contrast to Mathews who, in the fourth, boxed well off of his own jab. However, as the fight progressed to it’s midway stage, it became apparent that Rees could handle the power of Mathews but the same could not be said if those names were swapped, particularly when Gavin tucked his punches into Derry’s ribcage.
Like the third round, the sixth had moments of pure slobberknockery as both men threw with bad intentions, almost to the sacrifice of technique. Mathews’ ability to put his punches into bunches was on display in the seventh round, as he got through with crisp straights and sneaky uppercuts. That gusto prevailed into the eighth round and the work-rate confounded Rees, whose success was built on his one and two shots to the body and to Mathews’ worsening laceration. Mathews required saving by the ring bell as Rees’ onslaught and the sheer power within, hurt and damaged Derry and thus turned the round in his favour.
Showing a good finisher’s instinct, Rees secured a convincing stoppage in the ninth and ultimately final round via hooking leather into Mathews’ jaw. The concluding shots felled Mathews and had him slumped, arched over with his seat in the air and his face in the canvas. The gallant fighter managed to – somehow – make it to his feet by the count of nine but referee Howard Forster waved the bout off, awarding victory to Rees who added Mathews’ British lightweight belt to his EBU title at 135lbs.