This Saturday night in Newcastle, England, unbeaten bantamweight ace Paul Butler will be taking part in some serious on-the-job training. Having contested a mere 15 bouts as a professional, Butler’s learning curve will end abruptly when he faces countryman Stuart Hall for the IBF bantamweight title, but regardless of statistics “The Baby Faced Assassin” remains completely unfazed.
“I honestly believe that I have the talent to be in at the deep end and this is all about timing,” said Butler, who claimed British and Commonwealth titles at junior bantamweight. “I’ve only had 15 fights, but I’ve been a professional for four years and people forget that. I’ve had some of the best sparring available and I firmly believe that I’m ready for Stuart Hall.
“If he can go out and win a world title then there’s no reason why I can’t. Hall is 34 years old and nobody thought he would become a world champion. It’s a Cinderella story for Stuart because Jamie McDonnell got stripped and politics led to him getting his shot. Now it’s my turn and I plan to take it with both hands.”
Not only is Butler contesting for a world title when the vast majority of his contemporaries are learning their trade, he is also relatively new to the 118-pound division. Several of his detractors point to this as a real disadvantage, but the challenger sees only opportunity and feels the weight difference is negligible.
Butler said, “It’s only a three-pound difference. I know Hall has been at bantamweight for his entire career, but I only boxed at 115 pounds in domestic title fights. Other than that I’ve been around the bantamweight limit anyway. It won’t be significant and if anything I think it will be an advantage for me, because I’ll have more energy down the home straight.
“I don’t think Stuart will have too much weight on me in the ring. I’ll put on about 14 pounds overnight and he’ll be about 3 pounds heavier. I can’t see the difference being too great and although his promoter (Dennis Hobson) said he’s a huge bantamweight, to me his frame is quite wiry. He’s got a 34-year-old body and my plan to make him feel 34 years old.”
Despite the fact that Butler has fewer fights than Hall, and only one bout at bantamweight, he has opened as a sizeable favorite to capture the title. At 25 years of age, the challenger is almost a decade younger than his opponent, and many within the trade feel that youth, along with a ruthless body attack, will prove decisive.
“Stuart was interviewed recently and a reporter asked about the sparring we did a couple of years ago,” said Butler. “He said that I tried the left hook to the body three or four times and although I caught him once, he hid it well. Those were his exact words, so he’s basically acknowledging that I hurt him with 14-ounce gloves on.
“If that’s the case then I’ll break him in half with 8-ounce gloves. He might be okay over the first four rounds but, when tiredness kicks in, he’ll start getting careless. Everyone knows he’s going be in front of me and, in that posture, it only takes one mistake and he’ll be on the floor. If I connect cleanly I guarantee he won’t get up.”
So there is little doubt that Butler believes in himself, and his ability, but the challenger was quick to point out one weapon that Hall does carry. Even then that threat was quickly analyzed, dissected and dismissed by the Merseyside man.
“Stuart throws a great right hand,” said Butler, with a dismissive sigh. “He comes down the middle with it, as we seen against Vusi Malinga when he scored the knockdown. That said, he hasn’t had a knockout in two years [sic], so does Hall really carry that much power? He might have a good right hand, but when we sparred together I didn’t feel much power in his shots.
“Previously I had a bad habit of letting guys hit me to show them they couldn’t hurt me. I dropped my hands for Stuart Hall, he tagged me on the chin with the right, and I just looked at him and fired back. He can’t hurt me, but boxing is an art and I’ll make him miss and make him pay on the night.”
Butler is trained by esteemed coach Anthony Farnell, from Manchester. A professional fighter for seven years, Farnell carried the reputation of a balls-to-the-wall slugger but now, somewhat paradoxically, he communicates sharp blurbs of technical knowledge in a fighter’s corner and is recognized as one of the most cerebral trainers in the U.K.
“Anthony is amazing,” said Butler, with respect. “I’ve been with him from day one and we just clicked. We’re like Ricky Hatton and his original trainer, Billy Graham, who clicked when Ricky was at his peak. Anthony and I are good mates but I know where I stand with him, and if I don’t produce in the gym then he’ll tell me to put things right.”
The challenger might be new to world title fights, but he knows what’s at stake and his preparation has been brutal. He exuded confidence throughout this interview and all but dismissed his rival’s chances of competing, much less winning.
“I honestly believe I’ll stop Stuart Hall,” said Butler. “My plan is to take over from the midway point and see what those 34-year-old legs have got left in them. Hall partied in Ibiza for six years and I guarantee that plays a part on the night. You can’t be at the top of the game if you’ve abused your body and I will expose him.”
British fans can see Stuart Hall vs. Paul Butler live and exclusive on BoxNation from 7.00pm (Channel 437 or HD on Channel 490). Tickets are available from www.metroradioarena.co.uk or www.ticketmaster.co.uk
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing