ATLANTIC CITY - Gary Lockett has been to Boardwalk Hall once before.
On June 7, 2008, the native of Wales suffered a third-round TKO loss against then-middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. Lockett was hopelessly overmatched to the point where his trainer, Enzo Calzaghe, threw a white towel into the ring to save him from further punishment.
Lockett retired immediately afterward.
"Truth be told, I was done a few years before that fight, but I had to try to take advantage of the opportunity," Lockett said Thursday at Caesars Atlantic City.
"I had bought some property back home over the years and have always had a life outside of boxing. That fight against Kelly showed me I wasn't on that level and I wasn't about to just keep fighting for no reason. When I retired, I thought I was done with boxing. I had no intentions of going back."
He'll be back at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night, albeit in a different role. Lockett is the head trainer for fellow Wales native Gavin Rees (37-1-1, 18 KOs), who will be challenging WBC lightweight champion Adrien Broner (25-0, 21 KOs) on HBO Championship Boxing.
Lockett's most important contribution to Rees' career came outside the ring. In early 2010, Rees thought he needed to change trainers after spending his entire pro career with Calzaghe, and turned to Lockett. Lockett said he was interested, but only if Rees would bypass his weekly visits to the pub and dedicate himself to boxing.
"We met for a coffee and I read him the riot act," Lockett said with a smile. "Gavin was a party animal at the time and I told him there could be none of that if he wanted me to train him."
For Rees, giving up the occasional pint was not easy. His weekly routine had always included a Saturday night visit at one of the many pubs in his hometown of Newport.
And boxing never got in the way. His old training regimen consisted of grueling workouts during the week, followed by celebrations on the weekends, even when getting ready for a fight.
"It was just on weekends," Rees said with a laugh Thursday. "It was kind of hard to avoid, since there's a pub on every corner. I'd train all week and then go out and wake up on Sunday wondering how I got home."
Since joining up with Lockett, however, he saves the mugs for when he's not in training.
Rees, a former junior-welterweight champion, is 6-0-1 with four knockouts with Lockett in his corner.
But he's expected to have a very tough time keeping that unbeaten streak intact against Broner, a 23-year-old Cincinnati native who's considered one of boxing's rising young stars.
Aside from a tough fight against Daniel Ponce De Leon two years ago, Broner has not been seriously challenged. He won the WBC title at Boardwalk Hall last Nov. 17 with a surprisingly easy eighth-round TKO over then-champ Antonio DeMarco.
There are some boxing experts who view Saturday's fight as a mismatch that could end like Lockett's bout against Pavlik.
"I respect every boxer 110 percent," Broner said Thursday. "I don't know (Rees') name. I think it's 'Cabbage' or something. But I know they don't just give out wins in boxing. You have to earn them and he's earned 37 of them. But if you're not on my level, it's going to show in the ring.
"Sometimes you can be looking over the fence from the road and the grass looks so green from there. But then you actually get over the fence and you realize the grass is brown as (heck)."
Rees and Lockett are hoping to mow Broner down, if for no other reason than to silence one of boxing's loudest trash talkers. And if Rees pulls off the upset, he knows exactly how he'll respond.
"I haven't had a drink since Christmas," Rees said. "But I'm going to go for a pint on Saturday and celebrate my victory."
Seven other bouts are scheduled for Saturday, including a super-middleweight eliminator between top contenders Sakio Bika (30-5-2, 21 KOs) and Nikola Sjekloca (25-0, 7 KOs). The winner will become the mandatory challenger for champion Andre Ward.
Contact David Weinberg:
Lightweights: Adrien Broner (25-0, 21 KOs) vs. Gavin Rees (37-1-1, 18 KOs)
When: Doors open 5:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Boardwalk Hall,
TV: HBO, starting at 10:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 to $200, purchase through Ticketmaster or Boardwalk Hall box office.
Weigh-in: 3:30 p.m. today in Caesars Atlantic City lobby