LONDON -- WBA junior welterweight champion Gavin Rees lost the first defense of his title on
Saturday, stopped in the final round by Ukraine's Andreas Kotelnik.
The Welshman was caught with a whipping right hand with
less than a minute remaining of the 12th round and seconds
later stumbled to the canvas.
He got back to his feet but was clearly a spent force after
taking severe punishment and the referee stopped the fight. It
was his first defeat in 28 professional contests.
Rees, a stablemate of undisputed world super middleweight
champion Joe Calzaghe, won the opening two rounds in front of
his home fans in Cardiff with a flurry of attacks.
Germany-based Kotelnik, a lightweight silver medallist at
the Sydney Olympics, upped his workrate in the next two rounds,
catching Rees with some clinical straight rights and left jabs.
Rees was bloodied around the nose for much of the fight and
appeared to be close to defeat in the sixth when he was stunned
by a right cross.
He showed tremendous courage to keep piling forward,
although he struggled to land any clean shots to the head of
Kotelnik who displayed a rock-solid defence throughout.
A relentless 10th round finished with both fighters
throwing punches after the bell while Rees edged the 11th to
keep himself in contention.
The shaven-headed Rees needed a strong final round to
retain the title he won by beating Souleymane M'baye last July
but it was the classy Kotelnik who saved his best until last to
deservedly take the title.