British boxing’s hottest talent Paul Butler knows that, provided he avoids defeat or injury, he will almost certainly receive an opportunity to become the first ever 115lb champion from these shores in 2014.
The ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ from Ellesmere Port is now undefeated in 13 (seven quick finishes) and holds a lofty world ranking with the WBO, WBC and IBF. The WBA shall also jump on board if Butler can secure their vacant International belt on Saturday evening.
After claiming the WBO Intercontinental strap last time out, the 2010 ABA Flyweight champion again squares off against Latino competition when he goes to war with Mexico’s Ruben ‘Huracan’ Montoya over 12 rounds at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
With the jigsaw approaching completion, Butler knows there is no scope for a false move. He certainly seemed focussed and primed for battle when boxing writer Glynn Evans pinned him down yesterday.
Remaining tickets are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or online at www.echoarena.com
Despite winning by a near shut out, you encountered a frustrating time last time out when extended the full 12 rounds by Chile’s Miguel Gonzales. What positives did you take from the experience and what lessons did you learn that might benefit you in the future?
Gonzalez was very negative. I threw a couple of hard body shots early doors and, from the second round on, he withdrew into his shell. Beforehand, we’d watched him on You Tube and he looked like he came to have a go and was quite open but, in reality, his defence was far better and he wasn’t as adventurous.
He’d clearly done his homework and was very wary of my left hook to the body. So I’ve needed to go back to the gym and explore alternative ways to land it. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily.
On the positive, I completed 12 rounds for the first time. I knew I had it in the tank because I got through ten tough rounds with Ashley Sexton when he was significantly heavier than me; six and a half pounds at the weigh-in and about ten pounds inside the ring. We’d sparred five months before and I’d absolutely bossed it so weren’t surprised when he came in heavy.
Also, last time, I stuck to a game plan and kept to my jab and basics. Gonzalez was 17-0 coming in so didn’t know how to lose. Winning the WBO Inter-Continental belt got me a good ranking and I got a good response from the audience. I really enjoyed fighting at The Copper Box. It was nice and compact with a good atmosphere.
In what ways do you feel you have developed since attaining championship status by stopping John Donnelly for the vacant British title last November?
Gonzalez apart, I’ve got rid off my other three opponents early so my power must have improved. Also, I think I’m better able to adjust to different styles. I showed I can box and be clever against Gonzalez. In other fights, such as my Commonwealth title fights, when opponents have ‘had a go’, I’ve systematically broken them down.
How else do you try to bridge the huge gulf that exists between Commonwealth -European level and the elite 115lb fighters from Latin America and South-East Asia who dominate at world level?
I watch a lot of tapes and try to pick stuff up from those.
It’s no secret that Marco Antonio Barrera is my hero, hence my ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ nickname. I often watch his trilogy with Erik Morales or his win over Naz. Like me, Barrera is a naturally left handed fighter out of the orthodox stance. I love his attitude, his viciousness; that left hook to the body. He was a brutal finisher.
Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of (Cuba’s WBA/WBO super-bantam champion) Guillermo Rigondeaux. Even though he’s basically a novice pro with just a dozen fights, plus a southpaw, you can still learn a lot from his skills.
Previously, I’d study tapes of the lighter British fighters from the past like Spencer Oliver, Michael Brodie and Michael Gomez.
Given that you’re presently rated by all of the key sanctioning bodies bar the WBA, how do you assess the current world super-fly champions?
I’ve not really seen them. They could lose and then there’d be a different champion. I’ll only look at them when it’s my time. I just like to deal with the job at hand. I leave all the rest of the stuff to ‘Arnie’(coach Anthony Farnell, the ex WBU middleweight champion). He’s better at that.
When we last spoke in the spring, you were deliberating about going to either the US or Mexico to seek out top grade Hispanic sparring. Any developments?
We’ve not got around to it yet but it’s definitely on our agenda. ‘Arnie’ has a lot of fighters with Frank Warren now so hopefully we could all go out before I make a world title challenge.
People have started mentioning world title fights but they need to be mindful that I’ve only had 13 fights myself. Most of the reigning champions have had far more. I’m a long way behind.
But that level of sparring is certainly something I need. At home, I only get to spar super-bantams or feathers, at the lightest. Technically they may not be the best but, when I go in against fellow super-flyweights and they try to boss me they can’t.
Recently, I did a bit with (Commonwealth featherweight champion) Josh Warrington which was good.
It’s been mooted for a while that you might feature on a show in Macau or China alongside double Olympic champion Zou Chiming, with the prospect of the pair of you meeting down the line. Is that something you’d covet? What’s your assessment of Zou?
It would certainly interest me. It’d provide a great opportunity to generate publicity and showcase my talent to a broader audience. A future fight between us could prove a big money spinner.
Zou was a great amateur and he has wonderful movement but he’s already 32 – very old for a super-fly – and he’s only had three pro fights. Personally, I don’t think he’ll cut it as a pro. I don’t think his legs will take to being pushed back for 12 rounds. If he wins a world title, it’ll be because they ‘gift’ him one.
Fighting at championship level, you have greater gaps between fights. How do you occupy your time away from the sport?
I’m always ticking over in the gym, even between dates. But I also like to play football. I’m striker for the local team and we’re top of the league. I’m like a little Michael Owen!
I know lots of players in most of the other teams and there’s always plenty of banter flying about. To avoid the risk of injury, I have to give up three or four weeks before a fight and then it’s hard to get back into the team because we’ve a few decent strikers. I usually have to start back as sub!
So after four failures, have you managed to pass the theory exam for your driving test yet?
Yessss! Right now, I’m doing a crash course and I’ve got my practical test this Tuesday. Fingers crossed.
I think most feel that you’ve advanced beyond British and Commonwealth title level now. Do you intend to vacate your belts?
Yeh, I’ve not been told I’ve got to defend them but when the committees meet, I’ll probably give them up. I’m past that level now. If things don’t go to plan at world level, I can always drop back down and regain them.
On Saturday you challenge for the International belt of the WBA, the only sanctioning body that you’re presently not ranked with.
Correct. If I win, I’m assured I’ll get ranked with them, too. It’s only my 14th fight so it’s good that so many organisations are already recognising me.
You’re presently at a very delicate stage of your career now, treading water between domestic level and top world class. Does that present added pressure?
Not really. Since I began boxing at ten, I’ve always wanted a world title and I won’t leave the sport until I’ve got one. Every win takes me one step closer, any loss would prevent me getting my shot. I’m as fired up and motivated now as I’ve ever been.
What have you seen of Saturday’s co-challenger Ruben Montoya, the 24 year old Mexican whose lost just once in 14 and stopped eight?
I’ve seen a little bit of him. He looks a typical Mexican who’ll come and have a fight, try to sit on my chest. His work rate seems high and he wings away with a lashing, looping right hook over the top so it’s paramount that I keep my left glove nice and high.
He’s been telling the media that he’s going to take me into deep waters and drown me. Really?! Let me remind him, he’s coming into my yard, in front of all my fans. He’ll soon discover that I’m the boss, I’ll be the one dictating the pace.
Once he starts tasting my leather, he’ll realise he’s in with the ‘Real Deal’!
There’s five title fights on Saturday’s card. How important is it that you ‘steal the show’?
Pretty important. I intend putting a display on that has punters leaving going: ‘Wow! Did you see how Paul Butler took that kid out?’ That will increase my fan base and allow me to sell more tickets in future. I’m going to send the Mexican packing!
Watch the whole Echo Arena – also featuring Liam Smith’s British title defence against Mark Thompson, the WBO European Lightweight clash between Stephen Ormond and Derry Mathews, plus Paul Butler’s WBO/WBA Intercontinental Super-Flyweight showdown against Ruben Montoya, and Enzo Maccarinelli defending his Commonwealth light-heavyweight title against Courtney Fry, live and exclusive on BoxNation, The Channel of Champions from 7pm on Saturday evening (Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546). Join at www.boxnation.com