‘Why I am not prepared to play the waiting game’
By Richard Hubbard
With the solitary blemish to his ring record now firmly consigned to memory, Paul Butler is not willing to play the waiting game in his bid to restore himself to the elite.
In March, Butler attempted to become the first Briton in over 100 years to drop down a division and claim a second world title when he took on Zolani Tete for the IBF super-flyweight crown at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. He was unable to crack the puzzle posed by the hard-hitting South African and the status of Bob Fitzsimmons sadly remained unmatched, for now at least.
Butler got back in the saddle with successive victories over Mexican Gustavo Molina at the Manchester Velodrome and Hector Rolando Guzman from Argentina in Wolverhampton, the latter felled by a ferocious body punch after just 30 seconds.
But the 27-year-old had no real desire to be eased back into action. Top of his wish list after being toppled by Tete was a popular match-up with Belfast’s Jamie Conlan, which has been touted for early 2016, but following a trip to take in Conlan’s bout in Dublin earlier this month to build up a big date, Butler reveals a reluctance on the part of the Irishman’s team to make a firm booking.
The Ellesmere Port man is in no mood to press the pause button on his career after his next assignment, which is a battle for the vacant WBO European title against Silvio Olteanu on the Xmas Cracker card at the Manchester Arena on December 19.
“When I got beat by Tete I said I wanted to box Conlan straight away, I wanted to be straight back in meaningful fights,” reflected the former IBF World Bantamweight champion. “Obviously that didn’t happen so we went with the Mexican at the Velodrome, who was pretty tough, but once I found my rhythm and got that ring-rust off me, I got him out of there.
“With the last kid in Wolves it was just a great shot. I just caught him perfect, it felt like I just hit a cushion because I caught him that well. I just knew, straight away I just turned to Arnie (trainer Farnell) and said ‘that’s over’ because I felt it sink in.
“With the Conlan one I think it is a great fight and has been talked about a lot for a long time. I remember it being talked about when I’d had five or six fights and it didn’t happen then, we wanted it last time and it didn’t happen, we want it in February and they are now saying they want one or two more fights.
“When they think they are ready they are going to take the fight but it is like I am waiting around for Jamie Conlan. I want to be pushed, so if he’s not there, take me past him and I’ll go on myself and hopefully challenge for a world title.”
The Conlan camp have been talking up the match for much of the year and Butler suggests they should really now keep stumm if they are not ready to embark on the ringwalk.
“That’s it, they keep talking about it and when I went over to Ireland to discuss it, I spoke to his team and they were like ‘we’re going to get Jamie another one or two fights’. Don’t talk about me then, you’re holding my career back waiting on Jamie. It is a big-money fight for the pair of us, but let me go and when he is ready in time, he can challenge me.”
Given the accomplishments already ticked off in his 20-fight career to date – Butler was an early achiever, with a world title won against Stuart Hall in just his 16th bout after just one fight at the bantamweight limit – he believes he can hit the top spot again.
“I boxed for the British title in my ninth fight and seemed to be picking up titles every other fight. So it was all good, then obviously it all came crashing down when I got beaten by Tete, but I am back on the title trail now and the WBO European will push me back up there in the rankings. Hopefully, if Conlan’s team do want to take it early it can be made as a final eliminator as well.”
The short and productive campaign at the higher weight was a calculated risk that yielded high reward. The title shot was always planned as a one-stop shop but, after being crowned IBF champion, Butler admits he did harbour reservations over the quickie divorce from his belt.
“We talked about it before Stuart Hall even won the world title, I remember going for a meeting with Frank (promoter Warren) and him saying if he wins it would I consider going up to bantamweight, hopefully take his title, then come back down? I said yes.
“When I won it I was umming and arring whether to go back down or stay where I was. The only reason I would give up the title was if I got a straight shot, which I did, but Tete pulled out the first time and I ended up having a ten rounder. Then we did box Tete.
“It was always the plan to come back down, it was never about skipping the mandatory with (Randy) Caballero. It was a mistake giving that title up though. I looked at Caballero after and it would have been a good fight and one I could have come through.
“I was pretty gutted because the night I was supposed to be fighting Tete, Hall fought Caballero and the way he boxed was made for me. It is a regret now but you live and learn and obviously I would never do it again.
“I think at the time I was a little bit too small for bantam, if I was to go up now I would be a lot more comfortable then when I beat Hall. I think I will in a year from now if I haven’t won a world title at super-fly I will go back up to bantam.”
When it was time for Tete and the chance to become a double world champion, the South African known as ‘Last Born’ was certainly first to the punch and proved impossible for the born-again super-flyweight to fathom out.
“We knew bits about him, but were only getting old footage of him from when he got beat for the IBF flyweight title. We didn’t think he would stick to that game-plan for as long as he did, he was sensational on the night.
“If you go through his career before he boxed me, ten or eleven had gone before three rounds as his punch power was ridiculous. I’ve never felt nothing like it, even his jab, he walks out in the first round and throws a jab to the body and I thought ‘allo…’, this kid is special. He just kept that range perfect all night and didn’t let me get anywhere near him. When I did get close he just knew how to tie me up inside. He just didn’t let me work at all.
“It was difficult and after round seven I said to Arnie that it was a shut-out and I couldn’t get close to him, everything I did he had an answer for. In round eight I banged my gloves together, went in and as I stepped out that was where he caught me with the uppercut. He is just an exceptional fighter.”
Butler was down, but certainly don’t count him out.