ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The “household name” didn’t fill the house, but Adrien Broner certainly put on a show, demolishing the pugnacious Gavin Rees with a fifth-round TKO at the 2:59 mark to retain his WBC lightweight title on Saturday before 4,182 at Boardwalk Hall.
Broner (26-0, 22 knockouts) remained undefeated, while Rees (37-2-1, 19 KOs) lost for just the second time when his trainer, Gary Lockett, tossed in the towel in the closing seconds of the fifth round.
Rees proved to be a difficult, nasty little guy to deal with early on. The design was to get Broner to come to him, and it’s exactly what Rees did at the outset.
The fighter who views himself as the successor to the sport’s reigning defensive king, Floyd Mayweather, has a tendency to take more punches than “Pretty Boy.” He may have Mayweather’s flash and glam, he may have the “Money’s” shoulder roll, but he doesn’t have the defensive skills.
What happens when Broner is in against someone who can punch? It’s a question that will have to be answered at another time.
Tonight, Broner basked in the beating he gave his gutsy but tiny challenger.
“I knew he was going to come to fight – he’s a world-class fighter; I had to see how much gas was left in that Toyota,” Broner said. “He kept coming through every shot like it was his best shot. I knew he would hang, he’s a world-class fighter. When you have two world-class fighters going to toe-to-toe, it’s going to be a world-class fight. He’s tougher than an overdone steak.”
But Broner eventually ate that steak, and he believes he’d do the same to the world’s top 135-pound fighters.
“If I fought (WBO lightweight titleholder) Ricky Burns, he will get burned up.”
Rees was obviously disappointed. He felt he made many mistakes and allowed Broner to take him out of his game plan. Lockett said he was tempted to stop the fight after the third and fourth rounds. Rees had been taking some shots, once Broner established a good distance.
“I think I have a better skill set than that; he hits incredibly hard for a lightweight,” Rees said about Broner. “I knew that he was going to be powerful, but his power really stunned me. I got reckless in the third and fourth rounds and that was pretty much the end of it. Even though I don’t agree with Gary taking me out; quitting is not my way of life.”
Rees did well in the first two rounds.
In the first, Rees managed to get inside the taller Broner’s reach. He kept low, causing Broner to miss, making it difficult for the titleholder to consistently land his jab. Rees’ body punching was also effective. He landed the left hook often to Broner’s right side.
The second round followed more of the same – Rees staying low and making Broner come to him, repeatedly landing the left hook to the body, as well as overhand rights (some of which landed behind Broner’s head).
But by the third, Broner switched things up. He began using his reach and height, punching down on Rees and dominating the round. With less than a minute left, Broner opened up his arsenal. He smashed the shorter Rees with a barrage of punches, as the game Welshman absorbed the shots against the ropes.
Referee Earl Brown took a close look, but Rees was able to fight off the ropes to survive. From there, however, the sway of the fight quickly turned in Broner’s favor.
A minute into the fourth, Broner landed a right uppercut that floored Rees, It was the punch Rees feared most, and Broner set it up beautifully, measuring the right distance and plowing Rees right in the chin.
Rees, stunned and wobbly, returned to his corner in sorry shape. But he made the fifth round pretty exciting, until he crouched into Broner, who stepped back and downed Rees a second time with a left to the body.
Terribly hurt and unable to defend himself, Broner closed in to finish, and Lockett began climbing the steps to the ring with about 15 second remaining in the round when he got Brown’s attention to wave it over.
Broner, in his exuberance to celebrate, almost knocked himself out running into one of the turnbuckles to raise his hands.
Only time will tell if a fighter can do such a thing to the rising star. Rees believes Broner has unmatched potential.
“Broner is the best I’ve ever been in with,” he said. “He’s not a superstar in the making, he’s already there. I hope the best of luck to him in the future. He’s going to go a very, very long way.”
Photos / Al Bello-Getty Images