GAVIN Rees retained his European title and added Derry Mathew’s British crown with a brutal ninth round stoppage victory tonight.
The 32-year old Newbridge boxer can now emulate former stablemate Joe Calzaghe by becoming a two-weight world champion with a promised shot in the new season from promoter Eddie Hearn.
Rees has now won 37 out of 39 career fights and exorcised the demons of a draw with Mathews nine months ago when a broken nose forced a premature end in the fourth session.
That was in Newport but in the neutral territory of Sheffield we almost had a repeat performance when another accidental clash of heads cut Mathews’ left eye.
Thankfully the cut wasn’t fight ending in nature as even by then it was an absorbing clash, Mathews starting superbly, just as he did in the Newport Centre.
The Liverpool fighter who shocked Anthony Crolla last time out used his jab splendidly to keep Rees at range, Mathews’ height advantage allowing him to dictate the pace of the fight as he stepped back half a step to subdue Rees who again lost his way in the fourth when the padding on his shorts split.
Mathews shaded the three of the first four sessions but from the fifth Rees took control, cumulative damage taking a toll on Mathews who was unable to step back as he had been doing so effectively as eventually Rees found job by getting up close to his rangy foe.
That meant Rees was able to box on the inside and his clusters were doing far more damage than the solitary jabs from Mathews who had no option but to stand his ground in the centre of the ring or look to hold.
The pair began to trade and fight closer and closer and that was exactly what Rees desired, powerful shots from all angles mounting up in the sixth and seventh.
A rocket from the Rock blasted Mathews on the top of his head with 20 seconds remaining in the eighth and Rees pinned Mathews to the ropes, the brave Liverpool fighter arguably only saved by the bell.
Mathews characteristically came out swinging in the ninth and did all he could to stem the tide, but Rees finally landed the big one as a right cross blasted Mathews and a left jab finished the job as Mathews went sprawling towards the end of the session.
He was up before the count reached eight but with blood seeping from his eye the referee rightly stopped the contest.
See Monday’s Argus Sport for reaction from Rees and full report.