Rees' Paris match
Johnny Nelson believes Welshman Gavin Rees can continue his rise in Paris on Friday night.
Last Updated: 21/03/12 12:52pm
Gavin Rees defends his European lightweight title against Anthony Mezaache in Paris on Friday night and although it promises to be a stern examination of the Welshman's improvement, I expect him to come through it.
The 31-year-old seized the belt last summer with a unanimous decision over Andy Murray and his first defence - against Derry Matthews in Rees' hometown of Newport back in January - ended when his opponent sustained a broken nose in the fourth round.
He now takes his title abroad. Going to Paris is a brave move but Gavin Rees has always been an underrated fighter, a busy fighter and these days an experienced one. I just think that when it comes to top level, he seems to get exposed.
If he can do the job in France, it'd be great. If it's close, though, he may get robbed blind. I've boxed in France and in Germany and I know you get some odd decisions over there. It will make some difference, but hopefully not a massive difference.
Rees has only ever lost to Andriy Kotelnik but people still look at him and think he's very beatable. At domestic level, guys think they can beat him and when he was world champion, guys thought he was the easiest way to get a world title - but he's actually a good fighter. He's very fit.
Rees will be within touching distance of that fight he wants with Ricky Burns if he comes through this - that match-up could happen in a big way. I think he'll get through it and Burns would be a good test for him. You wouldn't have thought Burns was something special but he keeps pulling it off and they're two underrated fighters.
Burns' people might feel that they need a more 'showbiz' name to challenge for the title - maybe someone like Kevin Mitchell - but if Rees ends up being a 'must' situation then it will happen.
Mezaache's threat depends on how much he's got left in the tank. He beat Jon Thaxton, and Thaxton has always been a fit and committed, so to beat him he had to be smart and he had to be prepared to outwork him, too.
There are so many opportunities for Rees if he comes through this - both domestically and internationally. There's obviously Burns, Mitchell, John Murray, Anthony Crolla, and then further afield there are fighters like Breidis Prescott and Michael Katsidis.
Fighters like Prescott and Katsidis raise the profile and take it one step closer to bigger fights. Equally, being involved in a domestic classic would also help his name become a bit more household because people will start saying: 'He's done it again!'
There's another interesting clash on Saturday night featuring Rees' countryman Gary Buckland, who will attempt to cling on to his British super-featherweight title under a challenge from Paul Truscott.
Middlesbrough man Truscott will have the Yorkshire fans on his side at Sheffield's Motorpoint Arena, but it really is tough to call as both are just 25 years old and tough, honest fighters.
I think both these young prospects are promising and this will be a good tear-up. Buckland knocked out Gary Sykes to win the Prizefighter tournament and then beat him in a 12-round decision in Sheffield last time out - so he's proved he's worthy of being British champion.
It's a good crossroads for both fighters, but to be honest I don't see either of these fighters progressing to world level - I think European level will be the height for both of them.