Joe Calzaghe congratulates Gavin Rees on his win in the Prizefighter tournament
Ex-world champion Gavin Rees justified his pre-tournament billing as favourite in Prizefighter's light-welterweight show to win the title and £32,000.
The Newbridge man beat Hornchurch's Colin Lynes on a unanimous points decision in an entertaining final at the Olympia National Hall in London.
Rees beat Ted Bami in the quarter-final and Jason Cook in the semi on points.
"I showed how good I am, now I want to step back down to lightweight and show what I can do," said Rees, 29.
"That will put me back on the map. I've shown what I can do to some of the best British light-welterweights, I can do that on a world level at lightweight.
"It feels good, a lot of people were saying I wasn't big enough to challenge at this weight."
It's fantastic to see him come back like that, I hope to see him in a world title fight next year
Joe Calzaghe on Gavin Rees
Rees held the WBA light-welterweight title from 2007-8, losing it to Andriy Kotelnik who went on to lose the belt to Amir Khan.
The Kotelnik defeat was the only reversal for Rees in 32 professional fights, but weight problems have dogged his career and many feel that the 5ft 7ins Welshman would be more effective in a lower weight division.
Rees is trained by Enzo Calzaghe and has years of training experience with Joe Calzaghe under his belt.
"I'm really proud of Gavin," said former world champion Joe after the win over Lynes.
"It's fantastic to see him come back like that, I hope to see him in a world title fight next year."
PRIZEFIGHTER: BOUT-BY-BOUT ACTION
Quarter-final one: Jason Cook beats Michael Grant (TKO 3)
The experienced Cook roughed up undefeated youngster Grant from the outset, flooring him with a big right that he was unlucky not to have called as a knock-down.
A bad cut opened above Grant's left eye, but the Welshman was also bleeding from a gaping wound high above his left eye.
Grant battled on bravely, but Cook was always on the front foot, the referee sparing Grant from further punishment when he stopped the bout in the third after another look at his damaged eye.
Quarter-final two: Gavin Rees beat Ted Bami (points)
Pre-tournament favourite Gavin Rees showed the style that was predicted to be well-suited to Prizefighter, his bursts of punching catching the eye and winning over the judges.
Bami produced some sharp and accurate work, connecting with a number of fine uppercuts.
But former WBA world champion Rees was a clear winner, all three judges scoring 30-27 in his favour as he advanced to an all-Welsh semi-final against Jason Cook.
Quarter-final three: Colin Lynes beat David Barnes (split decision)
Barnes started well in a cagey bout from two technically skilled fighters, but Lynes took over with his superior work-rate.
Two judges scored the bout 29-28 for the Hornchurch man, the other 29-28 for Manchester's Barnes.
The result ended a three-fight losing streak for Lynes, inflicting just the second professional defeat on his opponent.
Quarter-final four: Young Mutley beat Barrie Jones (points)
Mutley landed the better punches in a competitive opening stanza and towards the end of the round he dropped Jones with a big right that was somehow not ruled as a knock-down.
The Welshman was again rocked in the second, a big left hook wobbling his legs.
Mutley appeared to fade badly in the final round as Jones came on strong, but it was too late for the Welshman who lost a unanimous points decision, two judges scoring 29-28, the third 30-27.
Semi-final one: Gavin Rees beat Jason Cook (points)
Cook's superior reach and obvious power kept the swarming Rees at bay in the opening round, but the bad cut high above the Maesteg man's eye soon re-opened and began to bleed heavily.
Rees started to get closer with scoring flurries in the second, then landed with a superb straight right followed by a left hook-cum-uppercut that dropped Cook to the canvas.
The former European champion was badly shaken as Rees piled in with plentiful and accurate clusters, although he fired back with one solid left.
The pair traded to the end in an entertaining third, but Cook never looked likely to find the knock-down he needed to put the result in doubt, the judges scoring 29-28, 29-26, 28-27 in favour of Rees.
Semi-final two: Colin Lynes beat Young Mutley (split decision)
Mutley started well with some heavy and accurate blows against Lynes, whose early work appeared sloppy and rushed before he recovered towards the end of the opening round.
Having ended the first as the aggressor, Lynes carried the momentum into the second, before the counter-punching Mutley landed a delightful left hook.
The pattern continued in an entertaining third, before Mutley touched down in the final minute after a glancing left from Lynes.
Mutley protested the count and immediately fired back, but two judges scored it 30-27 to Lynes, the third 29-28 for Mutley.
Final: Gavin Rees beat Colin Lynes (points)
Battle lines were drawn early, Rees swarming forward with effective combinations, Lynes using his superior reach to land occasional classy counters.
Rees repeatedly found his range in the second with long lefts that landed on the button and rocked Lynes firmly on the back foot, the Welshman shaking his head when Lynes connected with one full-blooded effort of his own.
Lynes needed a big last round, but Rees immediately connected with more of his heavy left hooks and controlled the pace throughout.
The judges were unanimous for Rees, two scoring it 29-28, the third 30-27 in favour of the former world champion.
Prizefighter, the light-welterweights: Ted Bami (Brixton, London), David Barnes (Manchester), Jason Cook (Maesteg, Wales), Michael Grant (Tottenham, London), Barrie Jones (Ferndale, Wales), Colin Lynes (Hornchurch, Essex), Young Mutley (West Bromwich, West Midlands), Gavin Rees (Newbridge, Wales)
The eight Prizefighters who battled it out on Friday (pic Lawrence Lustig)