A great chin is something that every boxer would love to have but would rather not discover it in the arsenal. Gavin Rees has a great chin, which he's discovered in 39 fights by relentlessly pushing forward, pressuring his opponent and willingly eating punches in order to get in position to land his own.
A great chin alone, though, won't save a fighter. It's more of a get-out-of-jail-free card against an unexpected punch or two that lands on the button, but it's no guarantee of success.
That great chin is likely not going to save Rees when he meets undefeated Adrien Broner on HBO on Saturday for the WBC lightweight title at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., unless Rees is able to come up with a style that he has yet to display.
In Broner, Rees is facing one of the sport's elite talents and will surrender advantages in speed, quickness, punching accuracy and power. Broner, making his first lightweight title defense, is in a league with guys like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward, the best fighters in the world, in terms of talent. He's exceptionally fast, is devastatingly accurate and can fight going forward or backward.
Rees doesn't have the kind of power to knock a guy out with one shot, or even two in rapid succession. He's 37-1-1 and once held a 140-pound world title, but the 18 knockouts on his resume are a fairly accurate barometer of his power.
For Rees to win most fights, he needs to press forward and fight at close distance.
That's precisely the way to get stopped by Broner.
Broner is 25-0 with 21 knockouts, but he hasn't particularly been tested and hasn't met anyone remotely in his class skill-wise. Rees vows he'll be that guy, though he's admitted that he often didn't train and ate horribly earlier in his career.
Not surprisingly, he says, he's learned the error of his way and is fully committed and living the lifestyle of a fighter. He is puzzled by the mystique surrounding Broner and suggested it's more a result of marketing than anything that will matter when the bell sounds.
"Who has he fought?" Rees asked. "I've seen his fights and half of those guys just stood in front of him, letting him dictate the pace of the fight. I'm not going to let him do that. This is the first fight that I have trained away from home [in Wales] because I'm going to show him I'm no walk in the park."
Broner, though, could ask the same question of Rees. Look at his record and among the guys he's fought are Peter Buckley, who was 26-110-6 and 26-120-7 going into their two matches in 2000. Rees has also met the 14-37 Chris Jickells and the 16-46-5 Nigel Senior in 2001, the 24-26 Rakhim Mingaleyev, the 28-28-1 Gary Flear and the 8-40-1 Ernie Smith in 2002.
As recently as 2009, 11 years into his pro career and in the bout immediately after he lost his WBA super lightweight title to Andriy Kotelnik, he met the 2-36 Johnny Greaves. Since facing Rees, Greaves has gone on to lose 54 of his next 55 bouts and is now 3-91.
Rees has faced an embarrassingly poor level of competition, far worse than the collection of misfits that Broner feasted upon early in his career.
That's not to suggest Rees is without talent. However, it's also not accurate to view Rees as some sort of veteran sage with numerous fights against world-class opposition.
Broner will be, by leaps and bounds, the best man he's ever fought.
Mike Tyson once lost to Buster Douglas and Lennox Lewis was knocked out by Hasim Rahman, which should be enough to prove that, in boxing, nothing is impossible.
Is it possible that Rees will bring the WBC belt with him back to the U.K. on Sunday?
Yes. But it is about as likely as Floyd Mayweather Jr. announcing tomorrow that he's going to fight Manny Pacquiao in his next bout.
It's probably not going to happen.
If there is a chink in Broner's armor, it's that he's not always seemed to take everything seriously. He was horribly unprofessional in the way he failed to make weight for his July 21, 2012, fight with Vicente Escobedo.
He often thinks people are coming to watch him perform a night club act, not fight.
"I'm a professional entertainer, as well," Broner said. "I love to entertain. I love to put on a show. I'm a legal bank robber. The way I make these fights look, you don't think I'm robbing a bank? It's easy money."
Rees' best hope is if, indeed, Broner is thinking the Welshman is easy money and is dreaming of the big fights that may lie ahead if he jumps to the super lightweight division.
That great chin, though, is going to allow Rees to stand in there and get sliced up by Broner's counterpunches. Rees would probably be better off by using lateral movement and getting Broner to attack and press the issue, but his instincts may not allow that.
It should be entertaining for as long as it lasts, but Rees' great chin may ultimately turn out to be his worst enemy in a match against an elite talent like Broner.
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