Kotelnik upsets Rees for portion of junior welterweight title

Updated: March 23, 2008, 1:05 PM ET

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.