Lightweight titlist Adrien "The Problem" Broner hoped to face Ricky Burns in a title-unification fight, but the deal fell apart over money. Broner will face the next-best available opponent, former junior welterweight titleholder Gavin Rees.
Broner and Rees will meet Feb. 16 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., in an HBO main event, Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com on Friday.
Schaefer had been negotiating with promoter Frank Warren to match Broner with Scotland's Burns, but Schaefer said they asked for more than $1 million, which was way off what was budgeted for the fight.
"Gavin Rees was one of the fighters on the short list of approved opponents by HBO," Schaefer said. "I guess he wanted the fight more since Ricky Burns outpriced himself. I can understand that a fighter would want a career-high payday when fighting Adrien, but when a fighter asks for three or four times his highest payday and wants payment tax-free, then it is simply a way of saying, 'No, I don't want to fight Broner.'
"My respect goes out to Gavin Rees for stepping up to the plate and fighting, in my opinion, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world."
When Burns held a junior lightweight title, Broner was his mandatory challenger, but Burns relinquished the title and moved up to lightweight, thus avoiding the fight with Broner.
Rees (37-1-1, 18 KOs), 32, of Wales, welcomed the fight.
"We have agreed to terms and are proceeding to contract," Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn, Rees' promoter, said. "Gavin is a tenacious fighter. I really feel he will give him a great fight. It is a great opportunity for Gavin. He is a former British, European and world champion, and this kind of fight and occasion is what you are in the game for. Of course, he will be a heavy underdog, but he is a tenacious man with nothing to lose. I believe he will give Broner one hell of a fight."
Rees won a junior welterweight world title in July 2007 in front of a hometown crowd by convincingly outpointing Souleymane M'baye. But Rees lost the belt in his first defense in March 2008 when he was stopped in the 12th round in Wales by Andriy Kotelnik.
In 2010, Rees dropped down to lightweight, and in June 2011, he outpointed Andy Murray to win the vacant European title, which he has defended three times.
Broner (25-0, 21 KOs), 23, of Cincinnati, was stripped of his junior lightweight belt for failing to make weight for a defense against Vicente Escobedo in July. He wound up knocking out Escobedo in the fifth round of a dominant performance in what became a nontitle fight.
In his next fight, Broner moved up to lightweight and scored a one-sided eighth-round knockout of Antonio DeMarco to win a lightweight world title at Boardwalk Hall.
On the undercard that night, heavyweight Johnathon Banks of Detroit pulled an upset by knocking out top prospect Seth Mitchell of Brandywine, Md., in the second round. Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 KOs) has exercised his rematch clause and will meet Banks (29-1-1, 19 KOs) again on the Broner-Rees televised undercard.