By John Evans
Anthony Farnell has been a busy man. Over the past few weeks the Manchester-based trainer has seen his three brightest stars – Paul Butler, Ronnie Heffron and Matthew Hall – step between the ropes and, looking back, he declares himself happy with the results. In fact, better make that almost happy.
“I’m happy with everything except the result of Matty’s last fight,” Farnell told BoxingScene recently. “I thought he won it and a lot of other people did. Matty was expected to get beat but I thought he did more than enough.”
Having lost a split decision to Sam Webb last time out, Hall suffered a second consecutive debatable defeat as he lost on points to unbeaten Irish middleweight Gary O’Sullivan. The majority of observers saw Hall, now 24-6 (16), taking the twelve rounder, but the judges returned one card of 115-114 and two ridiculous tallies of 117-111 in O’Sullivan’s favour.
Spectators weren’t the only ones surprised by the fight’s outcome, Farnell reveals that somebody a little closer to the action also expected Hall’s hand to be raised. “I was speaking to their team in the hotel after the fight and Paschal Collins [O’Sullivan’s trainer] was saying that it was a hard fight and that Matthew won by two rounds” he said.
“Matty wants a rematch and we’ve asked Frank [Warren] for it and he says that it’s on as long as ‘Spike’ doesn’t back out. I think Matty’s growing in confidence now. He’s been through a lot and I don’t think he’s been the same since he got stabbed. His problems are coming to an end now, though. I thought that O’Sullivan fight would put him right back up there. That’s what happens though in boxing, isn’t it?”
Talented super flyweight Paul Butler, 8-0 (3), had gotten the hectic period off to a winning start with a victory over the previously unbeaten Ashley Sexton at London’s York Hall. Although it probably didn’t feel like it the morning after, it was exactly the type of fight “The Baby Faced Assassin” needed.
As learning experiences go, it’s hard to think of one more rewarding. Sexton made the Adrien Broner scandal look like a lot of fuss about nothing by weighing in 4lbs over the super flyweight limit of 115lbs for the clash and then proceeded to rough up the unbeaten Liverpudlian throughout the ten-round brawl. Having had things go pretty much his own way throughout his career to that point, 23-year-old Butler was forced to work for every single second of the fight before claiming a 98-92 decision.
“At first I was thinking of pulling him out but I know how good he is and Paul said he wasn’t bothered,” revealed “Arnie”. “After the fight his [Sexton’s] dad said that he was sorry it happened like that, but that it was their plan. They were never making the weight and all they wanted was Paul Butler’s scalp and to move up.
“It looked like a good fight on TV, but Paul only got caught with a few swings. He said that he [Sexton] felt so strong though. Paul’s forehead after the fight was a mess. It looked like he had golf balls sticking out all over because he was so dirty [Sexton was particularly free with the head]. They were his tactics. He wanted to cut Paul, rough him up and maybe get a stoppage on a cut. He did cut him but we were lucky it was a little one. You’ve got to come through fights and situations like that to get to the top level.”
Farnell does agree that the ten round battle will have done Butler the world of good. “I think it was just what he needed. Paul’s done ten rounds with someone a lot bigger than him who was expected to beat him by Boxing News. I think he’s rated number one now by Boxrec so we’re waiting to see who’s next. Paul’s got a British title fight apparently but I don’t know who it’ll be against. It was supposed to be John Donnelly but he didn’t want to fight him.”
Next up was welterweight hope Ronnie Heffron who ticked over with an eight-round decision over durable journeyman Peter McDonagh. After the bout, rumours circulated that Heffron, 10-0 (5), had damaged his hand, but Heffron is OK and will take on former two-weight British titlist David Barnes in October.
“Nah, it’s just bruised. Obviously it feels worse when it’s all wrapped up” said Farnell. “The first four rounds [against McDonagh] were the best I’ve ever seen him. Peter has text me saying that Ronnie’s so, so fast. His jab was like lightening. Obviously, though, Ronnie likes stoppages and he didn’t stick to the gameplan and keep his jab going. He could have made that fight like a sparring session and won easily but he likes to mix it. I’d say it was a good fight for two of the rounds because Ronnie stood there and traded. He was getting the better of it, but could have made it so much easier by sticking to the jab and straight shots.”
Farnell’s gym is a busy place at the moment and joining the established names are two new hopes. “I’ve got Matty Fagan who was a brilliant amateur and Henry Thomas who won the Golden Gloves in America. He was the first ever British boxer to win an American Golden Gloves title. Fagan will probably be a super featherweight and Henry will probably be a lightweight.”