PAUL BUTLER: “I CAN’T WAIT TO SHOW WHAT I’VE LEARN’T UNDER OLIVER HARRISON.”
Former world bantamweight king Paul Butler warns fight fans to expect a revitalised version ahead of his crossroads WBO final eliminator at Liverpool’s Echo Arena this weekend, writes Glynn Evans.
After five profitable years with ‘Arnie’ Farnell in Failsworth, the uber talented 27 year old from Ellesmere Port has switched to Salford coach Oliver Harrison and believes it’s the final piece of a jigsaw that will see him reclaim his world title status.
‘It’s fight week now and usually I’m very miserable because of the dieting but I’m actually buzzing,’ says ‘The Baby Faced Assassin’ who meets 30 year old Thai terror Petchbarngborn Kokietgym over 12 rounds.
‘There’s a real jump to my step. I’m looking forward to the weigh-in, looking forward to having Oliver work my corner for the first time.
‘In camp, Ollie’s tweaked a few minor technical things – my defence up close on the inside, adding power to a short stiff jab and getting me to drive through with my right hand – but it’s as much about having different people in the gym each day. I now train alongside the likes of Martin Murray, Rocky Fielding and Denton Vassell.
‘Arnie’s a top, top fella and a fabulous coach. We won so much together so it would have been silly to fall out over it. As an ex-fighter, he’ll understand. He changed trainers several times himself.’
The Chester born star has rebounded with four stoppage victories since incurring the only stain on his 22 fight career when challenging Zolani Tete for the IBF 115lb title in March 2015. However, it was a sub-par showing against 12-1 Mexican Sebastian Sanchez three months ago which persuaded him to part with pal Farnell.
‘I just felt a little stale, going through the motions in camp, and needed a change,’ explains Butler.
‘I know I didn’t look great apart from the finish last time out but it wasn’t really down to me. The Mexican was very short so it was hard to get my body shots off and he was so negative. It was difficult to find my range.’
So onwards and upwards. Victory in Liverpool on Saturday will guarantee Butler a crack at the WBO title, although the identity of his world championship opponent remains unclear.
‘(Naoye) Inoue is a brilliant champion, very sharp and heavy handed. But I’ve always said that I’ll fight whoever to win a world title and if it’s him, I’ll go to Japan and spring a big upset!’ claims Butler who aims to become the first Brit for over a century to win a second world title by dropping down in weight.
‘However, my understanding is that he picked up bad hand trouble when he retained his title earlier this month and can’t fight for a while so the title might be declared vacant.
‘(Argentina’s long reigning former champion) Omar Narvaez is number one with Tete second but I believe Zolani is on the verge of an IBF bantam challenge to Lee Haskins. I’m three and Kokietgym is four.
I’d take Narvaez in a heartbeat but I’d not be keen on going to Argentina so hopefully Frank can deliver. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if I ended up fighting Jamie Conlan (WBO number five) for the vacant title. That’s the only way Jamie will fight me. He turned down this eliminator in favour of the vacant Commonwealth title.’
But Butler knows that all of the above will be irrelevant if he stutters against the top grade, well seasoned Thai on Saturday.
‘For once, I’ve watched a lot of my opponent,’ disclosed the 5ft 7in master box-fighter.
‘Behind Tete, he’s probably the second best I’ve boxed alongside Stuey Hall. He seems pretty tall himself. He’s got a very good jab and when he lands it, he follows with the right hand.
‘But he’s never fought out of Asia and he might find it harder to cut weight over here. Most Thais don’t travel too well and I’ll be doing my utmost to ‘put it on him’ this week, take him out of his comfort zone, make him feel a long way from home. He’ll never have fought at a big venue like The Echo Arena, full of screaming Scousers.
‘With Oliver, we’ve put a lot of thought into our tactics and really set-up a game plan. The Thai seems quite lazy. On the clickers he averages just 40 odd punches from rounds one to eleven, then unleashes about 100 in round 12. I average 80 (punches per round) in camp. I’ll be looking to take him out of his stride.
‘I can’t wait to show fans what I’ve learnt under Oliver. I intend to win every round, pressure him into fighting at an uncomfortable pace before getting him out of there in the back end of the fight.’