Gavin Rees appears unaware that history, reach, age and the bookies are heavily against him in his WBC lightweight title fight against Adrien Broner in Atlantic City on Saturday night.
Broner is unbeaten, nine years younger, has a six-inch reach advantage and has stopped or knocked out all of the men he has beaten in his last four world title fights.
In addition to the raw stats, there exists the important fact that Broner is being groomed to be boxing’s replacement when Floyd Mayweather Jr. finally retires and the Rees fight is his seventh consecutive appearance on HBO, the sport’s paymasters.
“You’d think that I’ve got no arms the way they have written me off,” said the 32-year-old from Newbridge. “The bookies have me at 80-1 to win – that is crazy, I’m a former world champion and I’ve lost just once in 39 fights.”
Broner has cultivated an image as a character and performs a post-fight act with his father that involves a spot of personal grooming. However, in boxing brash behaviour and being cocky are often mistaken for being “colourful”; Broner is a perfect modern example of a so-called character and at the recent conference in New York, Rees was easily able to reduce him to stuttering and muttering with a selection of b-list banter.
“Broner is disrespectful of me and all boxers and I don’t really have much more to say, just that I will knock this prick out,” said Rees, and when Broner accused him of being “ugly” there was a classic comeback from Rees: “That’s not what your missus said.” Broner and his paid entourage fell silent, in stark contrast to their efforts a week ago to get fans to select a round for Rees to get knocked out.
Broner is an exceptional fighter in the ring with power in either hand, fabulous speed and a cunning eye for an angle. He has moved up from super-feather, where he struggled to make the weight, and his last fight was a quite brilliant stoppage of Antonio DeMarco, who was the defending WBC champion. He has talent and multiple layers of backing on his side and starts as an understandable heavy favourite.
Rees will have in his corner Gary Lockett, a veteran of another fight in Atlantic City a few years ago where the plucky British boxer – there is no other type once they get a passport – fought a high-profile American for a world title. Lockett was stopped in three rounds by Kelly Pavlik.
It is possible Lockett’s loss was one of the most severe suffered by a British boxer in a world title fight in American in recent memory. However, in 1955 Don Cockell took a boat to San Francisco to challenge Rocky Marciano for the heavyweight world title and the ninth round massacre still remains a measure of any fighters’ ability to absorb a beating.
It is unwise in boxing to think about fairy tales, but in 1986 one did actually take place in Atlantic City when Lloyd Honeyghan stopped Donald Curry to win the unified welterweight world title. The bookies never even offered odds on the miracle ending – Rees is available at ridiculous odds and has a better chance than Honeyghan.
How they match up
Adrien Broner Name Gavin Rees
28 July 1989 Born 10 May 1980
Cincinnati, United States Birthplace Newbridge, Wales
The Problem Nickname The Rock
2008 Turned pro 1998
5ft 7in Height 5ft 4in
Orthodox Stance Orthodox
71in Reach 64in
25 Fights 39
25 Wins 37
21 KOs 18
0 Draws 1
0 Losses 1