By Frank Warren
Will we witness the emergence of a new potential superstar in British boxing this evening when Ellesmere Port’s Paul Butler attempts to rip the IBF World Bantamweight belt from the waist of Darlington hard man Stuey Hall.
I’m backing my judgement that I’ve secured the right fight at the right time for my man Butler – just as I did when Naseem Hamed defrocked Steve Robinson at a drizzly Cardiff Arms Park in 1995 and when Ricky Hatton eclipsed Russian legend Kostya Tszyu ten years later.
‘Baby Faced Assassin’ Butler enters as a 3-1 favourite but it’s certainly no formality and I expect a titanic struggle against the champion who holds significant edges in natural size and experience, and who is defending on home turf at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena. The din will be deafening.
This is as much a test of young Butler’s temperament as his precocious talent but he’s a piece of work in the ring I don’t expect him to fold.
I see some elements of the rising Ricky Hatton in him, with regard to his determination and crippling body assaults. And he’s a far smoother, silkier technician than ‘The Hitman’.
Hall annexed the title by upsetting South Africa’s Vusi Malinga last December in one of the best scraps of 2013. Formidably strong and rugged at 118lbs, the 34 year old north-easterner is presently in the richest form of his life and certainly won’t be exposed for conditioning or endeavour. The pair are ex spar mates and don’t like each other.
But I believe Paul will have too many tools for Hall whose only conquerors – Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins – both gave him fits with their movement. Butler can dance with the best of them if he needs to. He’s the complete package and could win by whatever means necessary.
Hall-Butler is the second chapter in a fabulous trilogy of all-English superfights this summer. In late July heavyweight juggernauts Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury resume their hostility at the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester and last weekend Carl Froch emphatically retained his WBA and IBF super-middleweight belts by ironing out George Groves in the eighth round of their grudge return.
It was a fantastic event with a crackling atmosphere, garnished by a savage finish from Froch. However, in contrast to their sizzler last November, it was a very cautious affair with both exchanging punches from long range and the lack of sustained exchanges brought ridiculous booing from some of the live audience on occasions.
Groves got his tactics wrong and lost the contest but he’s up there alongside Chris Eubank when it comes to self-promotion.
It was ‘The Saint’ who forced the IBF into ordering a rematch that Froch stated he had no interest in, instead Froch wanted to up his game and fight in Las Vegas against Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr. But rather than relinquish his title, Froch showed Howard Foster was right the first time. And it was Groves who helped galvanise the huge live gate and high pay-per-view take up.
At 26, he’s still young, but as Froch stated after the fight, he felt him breathing heavily in the 6th round. The deficient stamina again brought his downfall. He might now consider drafting a letter of apology to maligned referee Howard Foster whose controversial intervention in November probably saved him from being similarly stretched last time.
The event was brilliant for the game but Groves isn’t in the Benn, Eubank, Calzaghe class, they won world titles and were proven world champions.
As for Groves’ coach Paddy Fitzpatrick, who it emerged last week had lost all of his five professional fights under an alias which surprised a lot of people in the business, but was ultimately exposed. Fitzpatrick certainly warrants reprimand for extremely irresponsible comments associating Froch and death in the ring during the build up and certainly for the ridiculous letter he sent to the BBBofC stating he feared for Froch’s life.
Froch, who said himself that he’s not a one punch finisher, fought a smart, sensible fight, dictated the tempo and concluded the action with one of the best finishes in a British ring.
Expect him to leave mandatory challenger James DeGale standing at the altar whilst he pursues his dream of fighting under the neon lights of Las Vegas and fattening his wallet in a US pay-per-view event with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. HBO Sports boss Ken Hershman was an ominous presence at ringside.
To witness close to 80,000 cram into Wembley Stadium, and see boxing again dominating the back pages of the national press, not only provided a tremendous boost for our sport but delivered a solid thump into the protective cup of all the naysayers who whinge that the fight game is in terminal decline.
Boxing in Britain has seldom been more alive. Tune in tonight and see for yourself.
Two of the finest Latino fighters of the modern era lock horns at the hallowed Madison Square Garden, New York tonight when Sergio Martinez defends his WBC middleweight strap for a seventh time against Miguel Cotto.
Both will cruise into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as soon as they’re eligible, five years after retirement.
Formerly a decent soccer player and pro cyclist, the Argentinean champion didn’t lace up until he was 20.
A slick, speedy southpaw with plenty of pop in his gloves, he has lost just twice in 55 pro outings, and successfully retained his world title status by seeing off Brits Darren Barker, Matt Macklin and Martin Murray.
Nevertheless, injuries have rendered him inactive for 13 months since he rose from the deck to controversially outscore the latter at a Buenos Aires soccer stadium last year. He is now 39 and a fading (if still formidable) force.
Challenger Cotto aims to become the first four weight world champion from the fabulous fighting island of Puerto Rico.
The Garden has served as his citadel throughout a brilliant career that has included 21 world title fights and just four defeats.
He is a true ‘blood and thunder’ warrior of the ring and the styles should mesh perfectly to deliver a classic. BoxNation televise live from 2am Sunday morning.
I believe Sedgefield light-welter Bradley Saunders will be the man to sustain the north-east revival that Stuey Hall has started.
The most seasoned English amateur of this millennium – medalling at both the world championships and Commonwealth Games – bad Brad has hardly made a false step racking up nine wins as a pro, with seven victims faltering before the finish line.
For me, he possesses every conceivable attribute required to flourish at world level. He is a particularly spiteful body puncher and shifts a phenomenal number of tickets in his native north-east.
Bradley’s really kicked on since relocating his young family to a training base in Marbella, Spain away from unnecessary local distractions. It’s my view that he is already the best light-welter on these shores. Ex footballer Curtis Woodhouse and Scot Willie Limond – who hold the British and Commonwealth belts respectively – want no part of him. Both have rejected substantial offers.
Tonight Saunders lands at 12 round level against Finland’s Ville Piispanen for the vacant WBO InterContinental strap. I predict he’ll triumph in some style.