THE much-anticipated showdown for Gavin Rees with John Murray is against the wishes of trainer and manager Gary Lockett, the Argus can reveal.
Rees, nicknamed the Rock, will encounter former British and European lightweight champion Murray on Saturday, December 8, at the London Olympia.
In terms of career trajectory a meeting with Murray is an extremely high-risk strategy from former light-welterweight world champion Rees, who is already guaranteed a shot at the WBA lightweight champion in early 2013.
A loss to Murray would derail the 32-year-old Newbridge puncher’s plans of two-weight world success and his trainer and former stablemate Lockett admits he’s disappointed but not surprised by the Rock’s decision.
“Would I have put Gavin in with John Murray? No, he went against my advice on that one,” he said.
“With a world title fight around the corner it’s a risk that in my mind would’ve been best avoided.
“Many people will see this as a 50/50 fight and I wouldn’t argue.
“The best Gavin Rees beats the best John Murray but by the same token I know John Murray will be strong for 12 rounds and keep coming forward, he’s that type of fighter.”
Murray’s stock has fallen after successive defeats to Kevin Mitchell and Brandon Rios, both at a world level, but he has plenty of notable scalps to his name – including St Joseph’s British super-featherweight champion Gary Buckland – and an impressive record of 31 wins from 33 fights.
However, Lockett admits that with a fighter like Rees, 37-1-1, it’s imperative to let him call the shots.
“I gave Gavin a choice presented to me, of either John Murray or Anthony Crolla,” he said.
“Straight away Gavin said Murray and he was adamant that he could get really motivated for that one.
“It’s great for the fans even though I’d have preferred he’d have taken the Crolla fight, with all due respect to him.
“But Gavin wanted the hardest test possible. True champions always want to give themselves the biggest challenge because they thrive on pressure and Gavin fits in that category.”