In the 33 year history of the 115lb super-flyweight division, Britain is yet to produce a world champion.
However, there is a growing swell of opinion that Ellesmere Port’s Paul Butler could be the man to break the mould.
A two-time national junior champion and 2010 ABA flyweight king, the 24-year-old has raced to 10 straight wins in the paid code and looked devastating when blowing away Liverpool’s John Donnelly inside a round to collect the British title last November.
Known as ‘The Baby Faced Assassin’, the Anthony Farnell coached prospect shall be seeking to add the Commonwealth belt to his mantle piece when he challenges Nigerian dangerman Yaqub Kareem at on the huge Wembley Arena on Saturday week (April 20th).
Boxing writer Glynn Evans caught up with him to review his career and look ahead to his future.
Q What do you know of your opponent, Commonwealth champion Yaqub Kareem from Nigeria?
PB We’ve tried to get some tapes but it’s been a struggle and we’ve not had any luck yet. Even our contacts in Africa are unfamiliar with him.
Obviously, we’ve checked out his record. He’s unbeaten in his last 11, with seven stoppages, so he can obviously whack a bit and deserves respect. That said, Prosper Ankrah, the Ghanaian knocked out in two rounds by Carl Frampton over here, has beaten this kid and Ankrah looked poor so I’m not anticipating a world beater.
I’ll be going into the unknown but that’s happened before when I’ve fought foreign journeymen. Regularly, as an amateur on the Team GB set up, we’d face the opposition blind so it’s not like I’ve not experienced it before.
The difference now is that I’ve got 12 rounds to suss him out and execute a game plan, as opposed to just three. I’ll feel him out with the jab and take it from there.
Q What are you hoping to get out of next Saturday?
PB After winning the British title, the Commonwealth belt is next on my list. If you’d told me before my debut that I’d be British and Commonwealth champion by my 11th fight, I’d have laughed at you so I’m very grateful for the opportunities.
Another stoppage win would be nice but these Nigerians are usually very tough and rugged, and they can come to spoil so I’ll need to be patient; use my speed and work the angles. I’m hoping to force a stoppage late on and look classy in the process.
Q You’d only had eight paid starts when you challenged local rival John Donnelly for the vacant British title last November yet you wiped him out in just 69 seconds. What did that mean to you?
PB Getting me hands on a Lonsdale Belt was amazing. Me dad is a very good friend of (ex British, Commonwealth and European bantamweight champion) Paul Lloyd and ever since I saw Paul’s belt at his house when I was a young kid, I wanted one myself.
Ending the fight in such good fashion was a big bonus. We’d sparred previously and I knew I’d get him out of there. I’d been hurting John with the big gloves on and expected to make him quit after about five rounds. I was very shocked how quickly I got it done but it was a great shot.
I was a bit disappointed that John failed the drug test after because it took a bit of the shine off my win. Apparently, there were quite a few banned substances found in his urine. Some of my advisors were advising me to sue him but I couldn’t be bothered. I got what I wanted.
Q What have you been focusing on in training in the five months since becoming British champion?
PB I’ve been looking to settle down a bit more and get more power into my shots. When I watch tapes of the early fights in my pro career I can now see that I was a bit erratic and on my toes too much. But lately, I’ve been adjusting far better to the pros and I’ve stopped three of my last four.
The only one who went the distance was Ashley Sexton and he had a lot of weight on me that night. In the ring, I was 8.10 and he was 9.7. I still had him over in the last round.
Sheffield’s Anwar Alfadli had extended you to points twice during your pro apprenticeship. However, you finally stretched him in the final session of a mark time four rounder in your last gig in March. That must give you confidence that you’re developing.
Again that was very pleasing. When I’d boxed Alfadli before he’d really frustrated me both times. When the fight was proposed a third time, I have to admit, I weren’t too keen. He’s always on the move, then constantly dives in and holds. It was difficult to get up for it but he was the only one prepared to fight me.
But before the fight a friend told me: ‘You boxed him previously as a prospect, now box him like a champion’ and that thought helped motivate me.
Not many know but I’m actually left handed so I’ve a strong left hand. I often switch in sparring and I just caught Anwar with the perfect shot in the perfect spot. In 37 fights, no one has done that to him previously, left the paramedics looking after him.
Q I know it’s a huge ambition for you to win the Lonsdale Belt outright but, domestically, the division is relatively barren at present. Who do you think could provide the opposition for you to secure the additional three notches?
PB Lee Haskins is a big name and he only needs one more win to secure the Belt outright himself so he might be tempted. He’s very awkward and very experienced. He lost in a war to that class Belgian (Stephane Jamoye) for the European (bantam) title. I’d definitely be interested.
Mind, I’m not sure if he could still do the weight. It took him a few trips to the scales to make 8st 5(lbs) for Prizefighter and I understand he’s matched to fight Martin Ward for the British title up at bantamweight later this month.
I understand (ex Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Commonwealth super-fly king) Don Broadhurst is back in the UK now following a family bereavement, after a stint in Australia. He’s been out for a good while and I’m unsure he’ll box again but it’d definitely be a contest if he does. We had some good spars at our gym when Don was training for Prizefighter.
More likely is Jamie Conlon from Belfast. He’s unbeaten in nine with five stoppages and viewed as a rising prospect. As an amateur, I beat him pretty comfortable at the Commonwealth Feds in Liverpool, on just two days notice, when I was only 18 so I’d be confident.
Also, I hear Kal Yafai is dropping down to super-fly. That would definitely be a good fight. He’s a top kid. He beat me in the ABAs when I was only a teenager. We were on several camps together on the GB squad and sparred a bit. He’s a nice lad, I got on with him. But he’s definitely beatable. As a pro, I think he plants his feet a little bit too much and is a bit left hook happy. That could definitely be a big fight down the line.
Given the dearth of competition in the lighter weights domestically, fans and pundits are beginning to discuss the potential of a showdown between yourself and Liverpool’s Kevin Satchell, the British and
Q Commonwealth flyweight champion. Is that a fight that appeals to you?
PB Only if ‘Satch’ came up in weight and I’ve heard he’s not prepared to give up his two titles. When we were amateurs we sparred quite a lot and he’s a good kid. He must be around 5ft 7(in)tall so he does really well to make eight stone. It’s quite hard to generate attention, being in the lightest weight classes, but that’d get people talking.
Routinely, there’s a sizeable gap between the best domestic flyweights and bantams, and the reigning world champions who tend to hail from Latin America and south-east Asia.
Q Your predicament isn’t helped because the super-flyweight division still isn’t recognised by the European Boxing Union. How do you intend to bridge the gap that exists between top British level and world class?
PB I think winning the Commonwealth belt could help because you get some very tough and talented African fighters from countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda. Hard matches with boxers from there would help bring me along.
Perhaps challenging for International or InterContinental belts might be the route to go. Those belts help boost you up the world rankings and could provide experience against good class Mexican or South American opposition; help me acclimatize to that style before I face the very best fighters in the division. I could also meet the best European fighters in non-title fights. To develop, I definitely need tough opponents who can give me rounds and unsettle me.
A short while ago, (Mexican legend) Marco Antonio Barrera visited my old amateur club whilst he was doing a celebrity speaking show in the area. He’s got a gym in Mexico City and he invited us over to spar with his flyweights and bantams. That could provide me with some good experience and help boost my confidence. Hopefully we can arrange something for this summer.
Q So realistically, when do you anticipate being ready to make a world title challenge?
PB Hopefully around the summer of 2014. I’m still only 24 so age is on my side but I don’t to leave it too late. Paul Lloyd never got his world title crack (Lrtd1, Barrera) until very late in his career and never had another chance. I’d like to know I had time for a second crack if I fell short.
April 10, 2013