By Frank Warren
In my opinion, there are very few – if any – more naturally gifted boxers on the British scene than Paul Butler, who trades punches under the ring moniker of the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’.
Somehow, at the age of 27 and with 22 bouts under his belt, he has retained his cherubic features, which is probably testament to his skilful ringcraft and undoubted pro pedigree.
I have always been a fan of what Butler brings to the ring and was, truth be told, gutted when he failed in his bid to become a two-weight world champion against the then largely unknown Zolani Tete in March of last year.
What I was sure of – and said so at the time – was that Butler would be back and would once again operate amongst the elite. A brutal first round KO courtesy of Breidis Prescott in 2008 didn’t stifle the ambitions of Amir Khan – he won the WBA lightweight title in his next fight.
Butler too has shown admirable resolve in putting a punishing setback behind him.
He embarked on a rebuild at super flyweight – having won the IBF world title at bantam – and rediscovered his mojo over four fights that resulted in his claiming of the WBO International belt in March, which placed him on the front row of the grid for a shot at the full champion Naoya Inoue.
After the four fights he took the decision, clearly with a heavy heart, to part company with his long-term trainer Anthony Farnell.
Changing trainers is always an emotional decision for fighters, and they probably feel what they are doing is right for themselves, but only time tells. This is a tough sport and fighters need to feel on top of their game.
After pairing up with Salford-based trainer and former Khan coach Oliver Harrison, Butler was due to square off in a final eliminator for the WBO crown against the Thai Petchbarngborn Kokietgym in June.
Unfortunately, the new relationship didn’t get off to the best of starts and Butler missed the boat by failing to make the weight in Liverpool.
He announced that he will be campaigning at bantamweight from now on and was back in the news last week when it was publicly revealed he has joined up with Joe Gallagher’s stable in Bolton.
He will be in good company there with our super welterweight world champion Liam Smith also operating out of the gym.
Hopefully Butler has now discovered his home comforts once more and we can get him cracking in his quest to win a world title again at bantamweight.
There are good fights for him out there, with two versions of world titles being held by Brits in Lee Haskins and Jamie McDonnell, with the WBO belt recently won by Marlon Tapales.
Our man Tete is also craving a return to the title mix so we will be plotting a two-pronged attack on the bantamweight champions.
And I wouldn’t bet against either of them succeeding.
Andre Ward’s tune up fight ahead of his blockbuster against Sergey Kovalev quickly turned into a one-sided affair on BoxNation in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Alexander Brand was never in it against the 30-0 technical maestro and didn’t win a round. The fight did, however, serve a purpose for Ward in sharpening him up for the challenge ahead. Kovalev didn’t look great either against Isaac Chilemba last time out in July.
They were both probably guilty of looking one fight ahead, but what a fight that should be. A total of 60 pro fights between them, no defeats on their card and three world title belts up for grabs.
Both have now blown away any cobwebs and we can all look forward to one of the biggest fights of the year in November.
More from Frank tomorrow