Gary Buckland pips Gavin Rees in memorable Welsh war

Gary Buckland pips Gavin Rees in memorable Welsh war

By Dewi Powell: Gary Buckland (28-3, 9KO) edged Gavin Rees (37-4-1, 18KO) out in an all time Welsh classic via Split Decision last night at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena.

There was barely anything to separate the pair and the unenviable job was left to John Keane, Terry O’Connor and Ian John-Lewis who scored the bout 116-113, 115-114, 113-116 respectively which ruled that Buckland was the winner of a true Welsh war.

The chief support contest for Matchroom Sport’s ‘Reloaded’ show couldn’t have given any more entertainment as the pair practically tore lumps out of each other from the first bell to the last of their British lightweight title eliminator. Normally, there is needle between two boxers in a local derby but with both Buckland and Rees being friends who have sparred over 100 rounds together, they just fought and it brought one another’s best.

The opening rounds belonged to Rees who utilised the outside of the ring to time Buckland’s approaches and step in with crushing body shots. Such was the force, Buckland’s pale skin soon turned to bright pink and a cut above the inside of Buckland’s left eye brow had began to bleed heavily in the first round.

As Rees’ output typically dipped in the middle rounds, Buckland’s volume punching enjoyed success and he was able to score with overhand right hands and his left hook as Rees’ normally elusive head movement slowed and he instead opted to soak up the onslaught which had given the Newbridge native a swollen right eye.

Rees looked empty around the half way stage but he found the energy from somewhere to wake up around the ninth and match Buckland punch for punch again. It was no surprise to see both boxers sucked in to standing shoulder-to-shoulder but not many expected for Rees to push Buckland back and for the traveller to box on the back foot.

It was a strong finish for Rees who sank in uppercuts and hooks to Buckland’s body, some of which did stray low but Buckland never complained and was more concerned with catching Rees back, who had now regained his upper body ducking and dodging.

There was a subdued atmosphere in the arena throughout, especially for such an feroucious fight, mainly because the crowd recognised the respect the pair share with each other and those in attendance almost didn’t know who to support. After a genuine embrace at the start of the final round, the crowd came alive as both boxers literally stood toe-to-toe, traded and teed off on each other seconds later. Lucky for both boxers, loose tape on Rees’ hands caused referee Mark Green to halt the action and both needed the break, especially after the eleven previous rounds.

There can’t be any real arguments with the winner and there was no controversy, despite a few boos after the announcement, because the bout was so close that it could’ve gone either way. BoxingWales scored the bout 115-113 to Rees but with there being so barely any clear cut rounds, the bout was also open to being scored widely in favour of either boxer too.

There will be many neutrals in Welsh boxing who don’t wish to see a rematch, many of the observers are friends with both and don’t want to see two friends go to war with each other again but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rees keen on the rematch and Buckland isn’t the type of fighter to turn anyone down, evident by him taking such a tough fight on the back of a stunning knockout defeat in August. Plus, the pay masters at Matchroom and Sky would be willing given it’s entertainment and market value.

There’s a proposed show at the Motorpoint Arena in May, a rematch could take place then but, for now, the boxers have earned a rest. Rees, a former world champion, did say that he’d contemplate retirement if defeated again after losing his previous bouts with WBC champion Adrien Broner and Manchester’s Anthony Crolla but given the close nature of last night’s defeat, it may be enough to persuade him to continue.

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