Paul Butler discusses his return to bantamweight
It all happened so quickly for Paul Butler.
In just three-and-a-half-years as a professional, with 16 fights under his belt, the talented boxer-puncher had claimed British and Commonwealth titles as a junior bantamweight and then moved up to lift the IBF bantamweight title from countryman Stuart Hall.
The world was at the affable Englishman’s feet – and then adversity struck. In fact, when Butler dropped back down to junior bantamweight to challenge Zolani Tete for a second IBF title, adversity struck dozens of times out of the southpaw stance and forced a crushing eighth-round knockout defeat.
“Looking back, I should have stayed at bantamweight when I won the world title because fighting Tete at 115 pounds was a much harder fight than defending against Randy Caballero at 118,” said Butler, who lost to the brilliant South African in March of last year.
“Nobody knew how good Tete was at that time, but we know now because of his performance against me. I should have stayed at 118 pounds, but I was talked into moving back down and now I’ve just naturally outgrown that weight class.
Butler continued, “That’s why we’re back at bantamweight because I’ve been struggling really bad to make 115 pounds – really bad. I was sitting in the sauna on the morning of weigh ins and I’ve recently been fined by the British Boxing Board of Control for doing that.”
Despite being depleted, the 27-year-old Butler reeled off four victories, all by stoppage, following the Tete setback. He is now on the path to another world title shot at bantamweight and has made a significant change to his training team.
Previously, Butler worked with acclaimed Manchester coach Anthony Farnell, with whom he enjoyed all of his previous title success. Last month, however, it was confirmed that Butler was working with THE RING Trainer of the Year for 2015, Joe Gallagher, in Bolton.
“I’ve settled in well,” said Butler after a workout. “(Joe and I) sat down and had a chat and then I came down for two weeks to see how we worked together. Everything has gone well and I’m really enjoying it.
“Moving on from Arnie (Farnell) was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made. We got on really well and won so many titles together. It’s just that after my last win (a stoppage victory over Sebastian Sanchez in March) I felt a bit stale. It wasn’t a good performance and that’s not down to Arnie, that’s down to myself and how I felt in training. I just felt that I needed a change.”
So it’s a change of weight and a change of coach as Butler heads back to a division stacked with world class talent – both foreign and domestic.
“It’s a good division,” acknowledged Butler. “Jamie McDonnell has dominated the bantamweight scene for a while now and he’s on good form. It would be nice to box him. There was talk of that fight happening when I was IBF champion and it was brought up again recently but, right now, he’s mandatory for Rau’Shee Warren (WBA titleholder).
“You also have Stuey Hall fighting a rematch with Lee Haskins for the IBF belt (on Saturday), so there’s lots going on.”
Further afield, Butler’s name was also linked to the exciting southpaw Marlon Tapales, who claimed the WBO bantamweight title with a thrilling 11th-round stoppage of Pungluang Sor Singyu in July. Obsessed with regaining a world title, Butler’s eyes lit up as soon as Tapales’ name was mentioned.
“I had a look at him and he’s a good fighter,” said Butler, who was studying footage of the Filipino on YouTube with Gallagher when this reporter entered the gym. “Like myself, he’s come up through the weights, so he’s not going to be any bigger than me. Off of what I’ve seen of him, I’d fancy the job.
“His team have said they would be happy to travel to England (for the fight) and it would be the end of October or the beginning of November if it happens.”
There’s plenty of UK talent at bantamweight and the stylish Butler will be a welcome addition to the division, no matter what route he chooses.
Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing