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Frank Warren on Paul Butler, Hopkins, Garcia, Saunders

by Frank Warren

Last Saturday night at Aintree Racecourse I believe we saw the emergence of the next big star of British boxing.

Those who saw Paul Butler's majestic bantamweight debut on BoxNation will now hopefully realise why I've been hammering on about him for so long.

Butler, from Ellesmere Port, was picture perfect prior to puncturing Argentinean opponent Oreste Bernabe Nieva with a single crippling body shot to claim the WBA Intercontinental title and keep his unbeaten record intact.

It reminded me of a young Ricky Hatton on the rise as he blasted his way through opponents, cutting them down with brutal body shots not seen since the days of Irish dynamo Barry McGuigan.

Against Nieva, Butler displayed his full arsenal, utilising a beautiful sharp jab and hooking off it, followed with a hard right hand and devastating left hooks to the body.  Neiva was virtually shut out and couldn't get near Butler who used his fine footwork and classy body sways to avoid any punches that Nieva threw out.

While he has the face of a choir boy, when he steps in between the ropes he lives up to his moniker 'The Baby Faced Assassin', throwing plenty of spiteful and venomous punches, looking to do real damage to his opponent.

In his last three outings, 25-year-old Butler has seen off Latino opposition who landed with just three defeats in 50 pro fights combined.

Some of the praise for his exciting performance has to go to trainer Anthony Farnell who has worked tirelessly with Butler since he turned professional in 2010, perfecting his skill on a daily basis.  Another one of Arnie's young talents was on the card last Saturday, Matty Fagan, who also hails from Ellesmere Port, racking up his fifth win and looks like another champion in the making.

While the lighter weight classes haven't always been the most attractive, sometimes a certain fighter comes along who possesses all the ingredients to become a crossover star, like Naseem Hamed who started off at super-fly, and I believe Butler could be that man.

World rated by all major governing bodies and holding the British, Commonwealth WBO and WBA International belts at super-fly, Butler's options are boundless.  At bantamweight there's big hitting WBC king Shinsuke Yamanaka and WBO holder Tomoki Kameda both from Japan, while Panamanian Anselmo Moreno holds the WBA crown.  If he won the WBO title, Butler could then zone in on IBF boss Stuey Hall in what would be a cracking all-British unification showdown, provided of course the Darlington man can repel Hartlepool challenger Martin Ward in Newcastle later this month.

It'll be big up North!

***

Despite a population of less than four million people, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has produced more boxing world champions per capita than any other nation.

Since bantamweight Sixto Escobar defeated Mexico's Baby Casanova in Montreal to deliver the archipelago its first world title back in 1934, the Caribbean isles had produced almost 70 global champions at the last count. Only Mexico and the USA have higher tallies.

And the former Spanish colony is the only country that can claim a bonafide world champion in all of the 17 recognised weight categories from strawweight (7stone, 7lbs) right through to heavyweight.

The fight game first became popular in PR at the start of the twentieth century when workers duked it out to reveal the best fighting man on the many sugar and coffee plantations. Illegal match-ups on roof tops followed.

The sport was finally legalised there in 1927. Though the island is just 110 miles wide and 40 miles long, there are over 40 boxing gyms and, through history, they have spawned some of the greatest talents that the Noble Art has known.

In addition to Escobar, native sons Carlos Ortiz, Jose Torres, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfred Benitez, Edwin 'Chapo' Rosario and Felix 'Tito' Trinidad have all been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota.

Expect modern day legends like Hector 'Macho' Camacho, Ivan Calderon and Miguel Cotto to follow as soon as they become eligible.

Puerto Ricans also hold several of boxing's most coveted records. Benitez, a comically ill disciplined defensive genius, became the sport's youngest ever world champion when, aged just 17, he mesmerised WBA light-welter champ Antonio Cervantes over 15 rounds in March 1976.

Mallet fisted Gomez, known as 'Bazooka', holds the modern day record of 17 successive world title wins by knockout. Yet even he was eclipsed by Camuy super-bantam Daniel Jiminez who, in September 1994, knocked out hapless Harald Geier of Austria in just 17 seconds of a WBO title defence.....which included the full ten count!

This evening, at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, the fight daft Ricons will have a new darling to deify.

Amir Khan conqueror Danny 'Swift' Garcia, born in Philadelphia of PR ancestry, is set for an emotional homecoming when he defends his WBA and WBC light-welter straps against California's Mauricio Herrera.

The 25 year old, who is unbeaten in 27, appears to possess the full package; slick skills, mobility, a frighteningly combative nature plus fists of stone.

Once a US amateur champion, Garcia was initially slow to acclimatize to the profession but, in his last five, he has mastered Mexican legend Erik Morales (twice), short-circuited Khan, schooled ex world champion Zab Judah and defused monster hitting Argentine Lucas Matthysse. He has every attribute – inside and outside the ring – to evolve into a major superstar.

Deontay Wilder – touted as the saviour of US heavyweight boxing after icing all 30 victims within four rounds – finally gets an opponent with a pulse when he confronts savvy Philadelphian Malik Scott over 12 rounds in a WBC sanctioned eliminator on the undercard. BoxNation televise the whole card live from 2am. Don't miss it!

***

Evergreen IBF light-heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins might not be the most aesthetic fighter on the planet and I know from personal dealings that he's some way short of the most cordial.

Nevertheless, the ex convict, who entered his 50th year last January, is incontestably among the most remarkable prizefighters that ever lived.

And on April 19th in Washington DC, 'BHop' endeavours to expand the long list of records that he already claims by becoming the oldest fighter to unify a world title when he fronts up to WBA counterpart Beibet Shumenov.

At 30, the Las Vegas based Kazakh is young enough to be Hopkins' son and, with five successful world title defences on his ledger, he is clearly no mug.

Still, Hopkins has arguably the sharpest tactical mind in the sport and I'd be surprised if he didn't mastermind a plan to emerge triumphant.

***

Hatfield middleweight Billy Joe Saunders edges ever closer to his dream of becoming the first member of Britain's sizeable travelling community to win a boxing world title.

This week I tendered the winning purse bid to deliver the 24 year old southpaw home advantage for his vacant European title fight against Emanuele Blandamura.

The 34 year old Italian has won 22 straight and has already relieved six victims of their precious unbeaten status, including a touted Austrian over in Stuttgart in his last gig.

However, former Beijing Olympian Billy Joe is fast approaching his peak years and, after bagging British, Commonwealth and International belts, is already world rated by all the major sanctioning bodies.

Fighting in his own yard, I expect 'The Caravan Kid' to be too fresh, too hungry and too classy for this Roman soldier.

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