Buckand and Rees know each other well, having sparred many rounds together. Rees (9st 8lbs 15oz) started quickly, planting powerful right hands into Buckland’s (9st 8lbs 13oz) ribs from the back foot. A clash of heads caused blood to run into Buckland’s eye, but his corner dealt with it and gradually, his relentless march forward started to bear fruit. Rees slowed down his buzzsaw attacks, and Buckland got the better of some close range exchanges.
The younger man by six years worked hard to smother Rees in the middle rounds. Having taken stiff right hands and vicious body shots, Buckland looked to capitalise as the energy started to ebb from elder stateman Rees. Going back to his corner at the end of the eighth, Rees looked drained, but went on to find a second wind and even pushed Buckland back in the ninth with accurate shots.
Just about edging the tenth and eleventh rounds, Rees looked to have done enough as he bobbed his way out harm and was slightly busier. The crowd cheered heartily as both Welshmen gave their best until the final bell.
With Buckland’s arms held aloft by trainer Tony Borg, and Rees on Gary Lockett’s shoulders, both fighters thought they’d done enough for the win. Judges scored the fight a split decision - John Keane 116-113 (Buckland), Ian John Lewis 116-113 (Rees) and Terry O’Connor 115-114 (Buckland). BoxRec News scored 115-113 for Rees.
Before the fight, Rees talked of retirement if he lost, and said afterwards: “I’ve lost three in a row now. I’ll have a rest with my family and see what happens.”
For Buckland, a British lightweight title shot against Martin Gethin could come soon. Buckland said: “Gavin’s a true champion and he pushed me all the way.”
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