Former world bantamweight champion had a great chance to get right back in the mix but then lockdown hit, as he explains to Elliot Foster, but fancies a fight with Kal Yafai
Paul Butler had been hoping to end the month as a champion again. The former IBF bantamweight champion had agreed on terms for another shot at a belt and it had been set to happen on April 26 at Ellesmere Port Sports Village. Butler revealed last month that he would be fighting “very local,” with an announcement imminent, but then the COVID-19 crisis hit and put paid to any official confirmation of a clash.
While in lockdown, continuing to tick over with anticipation that the fight could still take place once normal service resumes, “The Baby-Faced Assassin” took time to speak to Seconds Out about what the future could hold and the disappointment of having a fight fall flat on its face so close to fight night.
“It was all agreed,” he says, shortly after completing an online fitness circuit alongside some amateur fighters from Wirral CP Boxing Club. “We were a day or two away from officially announcing everything. All the contract from their side had been signed and the only thing that was left to do was to agree my wages for the show.”
Joe Gallagher, also Butler’s trainer, would have been staging the show in his guise as head honcho of M22 Promotions, having already offered up a trio of Sunday afternoon events at the Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester.
“Joe was happy to invest in me for this one, for me to bring the title home because this would have been my way back in at the top level at bantamweight,” Butler explains. “I’m just hoping that, once this all dies down and we get back to some relative normality, the opportunity is still there. The contract is signed from their side so I doubt Joe would let it slip through his fingers after putting the graft in to bring it to the UK.”
The unnamed champion that Butler had been set to face may well, once his identity becomes known, be familiar to UK fans.
“I’d been sent the posters and everything for the fight and it’s incredibly frustrating,” he adds, “because I was hoping that this would be the catalyst for me to get back in the big-time after last year. Okay, I boxed four times – and for most fighters, that’s a good year – but they were all tick-over fights. There was nothing big, nothing to get the juices flowing, and this would have done just that. It would have lit that fire within me again and would have pushed me right up those rankings to another major title shot.
“It’s not just me, thankfully, and we’re all in the same boat, but the worst thing for me has been missing the lads and missing the gym. I’ve missed being able to punch things and hopefully, once lockdown is over and everything is back up and running again, we’ll be able to announce the fight because it’s a good one to get me back in the mix.
“I would imagine, knowing Joe as I do, that he will have come to some sort of agreement with them for the fight to take place after this is all over.”
Butler, while waiting on news of a fight, was a keen spectator back in February when Kal Yafai travelled to Frisco, Texas, and lost his WBA super-flyweight title to the excellent Roman Gonzalez. Yafai, who was down twice prior to the stoppage in round nine, had made five routine defences of his belt prior to running into the legendary “Chocolatito”, but twice-defeated Butler, 31, believes he would have the beating of the man from Birmingham were they to meet.
“I really like Kal,” says Butler, “and I get on with him. I think he’s a great lad and an even better fighter, but he just ran into a special man in Gonzalez and had a bad night. We all have them and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Gonzalez is one of the best and there’s no shame in losing to the best.”
There is little prospect of Yafai boxing at 115lbs again after years of battling the weight, with him saying in the aftermath of his sole pro reverse that he would be moving up, something that pleased Butler.
“I like the fact that Yafai’s talking about moving up in weight,” he says. “Obviously, I’m a bantamweight and I think a fight between him and I would be a cracking all-British fight for the lower weights. I really like Kal, but I just think his feet are too slow for him to be able to beat me. That said, Eddie [Hearn, Yafai’s promoter] would have to pay me very well for me to accept that fight, even though I believe I have the beating of Yafai.”