Paul Butler warms up on Saturday, talks Stuart Hall win and Zolani Tete
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New British star Paul Butler, who fights Ismael Garnica this Saturday in Liverpool, England, is another in a long line of fighters who carry the nickname “The Baby Faced Assassin,” but the 25-year-old’s professional ascension has been anything but child’s play.
Butler (16-0, 8 knockouts) has annexed British and Commonwealth titles at junior bantamweight and, in June of this year, made a one fight jump to 118 pounds to lift the IBF crown from domestic rival Stuart Hall by split decision.
“It meant everything to me,” said Butler, of his most notable victory. “It was something that I’d been dreaming about for 15 years and for it to finally come true was the proudest moment I’ve had in boxing, along with winning the British title. Every fighter dreams of becoming world champion.
“My performance against Stuart Hall was good for the first six rounds but I switched off. During the course of a 12 rounder you sometimes need to cruise a round, but I drifted for too long and allowed Stuey back into the fight. I didn’t get going again until the 11th, but closed well to get the win.”
No sooner had Butler, who hails from Cheshire, England, reached the pinnacle than he decided to vacate the IBF bantamweight championship and head back to 115 pounds. The move came as a surprise to many but the fleet-footed technician had never planned to make a title defense.
“I only went up in weight because we fancied the job against Stuey Hall,” said Butler. “We were on the verge of a world title shot at junior bantamweight and held high positions with the governing bodies, before the Hall fight presented itself. The plan was always to win that fight and move back down.”
The decision was also easy to make because a bout against IBF titleholder Zolani Tete, THE RING’s No. 4 rated junior bantamweight, was scheduled for October 25 and Butler was set to become a two weight world champion.
That dream became a nightmare when Tete pulled out with a broken left hand.
“I was flying in the gym and it was the best I’d ever felt,” said Butler, with a deep sigh. “People were asking if I’d found it hard to vacate my world title but I was fine because I was challenging for a second one in my natural weight class.
“When that fight got called off I was depressed for days. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or come to the gym and, when I was there, I was being caught by silly shots in sparring. It was just horrible and the moment I found out was actually caught live on camera by BoxNation (UK television channel).
Butler continued, “Suddenly we got a phone call from Michael Katsidis, who was looking for sparring, and that brought me back up to speed because he’s a quality fighter. I had a great spar with Katsidis, who was preparing to fight Tommy Coyle and, from then on, I’ve been feeling great.”
Ismael Garnica, a 23-year-old Mexican, with an undistinguished resume, fills in for Tete in a 10 round bout to be held just above the bantamweight limit. Butler, due to recent events, is beyond dismissive of the inexperienced stand-in who is 13-4-1 (5 KOs).
“I didn’t even know his name until you told me, that’s how interested I am in it,” said Butler, with a deflated tone. “It’s like you’re a lion in the zoo and they give you this big carcass to feast on then, suddenly, snatch it away and give you a piece of cold meat.
“My plan is to go out there and do a job on him. I believe that I’m world level and this guy isn’t world level. He’s been stopped before and I’m not interested in banking rounds. My intention is to dominate this kid and I’m going in there to blast him out.”
On the same night “The Baby Faced Assassin” stays busy against Garnica his old foe, Stuart Hall, will meet Randy Caballero for the very title Butler vacated. Hall is a substantial underdog to become a two-time world champion, although his former opponent is very reluctant to write him off.
Butler said, “I haven’t seen too much of Caballero but I had a little look at one of his fights recently. He looks classy but I’ve been hearing that he has stamina problems and if he does then that spells trouble because Stuey comes on strong and he can punch a bit.
“I’m hoping Stuey rides out the early storm and does the business. He didn’t have to give me a title shot, but he did and I’m very grateful for that. He’s a great kid and although we had words, before getting in the ring, that’s to be expected in the lead up to a fight. I’d love to face him again one day, especially if he wins the title back.”
Rumors abound that Tete could face Butler in late February.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing