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The boxing EBU European Lightweight title is at stake tonight when champion Gavin Rees comes up against challenger Derry Matthews. The two meet in Newport, Wales in a fight promoted by Barry Hearn. Coverage starts at 8pm on Sky Sports 1 (UK). 

The second in the unofficial 'Wales vs Liverpool' trilogy (Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew meet up on October 15), this fight has a lot going for it. The champion Gavin Rees (35-1 16KOs) is looking to use this match as a springboard for a world title shot, which if he won would be his second belt on the world boxing stage. He held the light welterweight belt fours years ago and ever since losing it to Souleymane M'baye, 'The Rock' has yearned for another one. As well as a shot at a world title, Rees has other fights he'd like to arrange. He said:
“I’d love a fight with Kevin Mitchell too. It’s a fight that I think I’d win but it’d be a cracker and one that fight fans would love to see.”
There is a danger inherent in Rees' talks of a world title fight – is he guilty of looking past his upcoming fight with Derry Matthews? Rees doesn't believe so, but if he is then a surprise could be waiting for him when he climbs into the ring.

Will Derry Matthews Complete His Comeback?
'Dirty' Derry Matthews (29-5 15KOs) is four fights into a comeback which began in January 2011, bouncing back from a retirement that was prompted by a sudden and extensive loss of boxing form. It started back in 2008, when Matthews lost his WBU featherweight title to Choi Tseveenpurev. After that, Liverpudlian Matthews lost three fights out of four, taking away both his winning momentum and his motivation.

Matthews seems to be getting back to winning ways now, with his most recent being a sixth round knockout victory over relative newcomer Stephen Jennings. His fight with Gavin Rees, for the EBU European Belt, will be the one of the biggest in Matthews career. He isn't fazed though, having this to say about his Rees:
“After seeing him in the flesh for the first time in my life, I was happy with what I’ve seen and know I’ve got the range and style to beat him.”
Gavin Rees v Derry Matthews Prediction
First off, it must be said that Rees has the hometown advantage here. He was born in Newport and tonight he will find himself fighting in front of his own cheering fans. This will no doubt give him confidence and he will look to start the fight dramatically, knocking something out of Matthews to give the home crowd something to cheer about. Rees will look to start quickly, but many feel this could be his undoing.

In Rees' last fight with Andy Murray, the Welshman looked excellent in the beginning stages of the boxing match, but when it got to round six his body seemed to fall apart and the champion looked sluggish. Although he still scored a unanimous decision victory, questions were now among the boxing media about Rees conditioning – does he have a problem keeping in shape?

Rees says not. He insists that although he did have a problem in his fight with Murray, he has tackled and eliminated it. With a combination of better training and a nutritious diet tailored to his body, he has banished the sluggishness that has haunted him in the past. This, combined with sparring sessions with Ricky Burns and Frankie Gavin, have put the former Prizefighter winner in a position of confidence., He believes he can last the whole twelve rounds, should it come to that.

Matthews has no problems with conditioning, but he does have a spotty record; one that shows the twenty-eight year old has some flaws in his game. Five people have managed to pick him apart in a thirty-four fight boxing career. Rees, who has won more fights than Matthews has boxed, will no doubt have studied his opponents past losses. He is an intelligent, experienced boxer and - along with his team - he will have put together a strategy aimed to exploit Matthews' shortcomings.

Gavin Rees Will Beat Derry Matthews

Improved stamina or not, I still don't think Rees will want this to last twelve rounds if he can help it. He will look to start early, using his impressive jab to open up Derry Matthews' defence, before finally landing the killer shot. I predict a knockout win for Gavin Rees in the first seven rounds of the fight.