BUTLER RELISHING MEXICAN BATTLE
Ellesmere Port star Paul Butler gets his first taste of Mexican when he takes on hard-hitting Ruben Montoya at the Liverpool Echo Arena on Saturday 7th December.
The 24-year-old makes the first defence of his WBO Intercontinental Super-Flyweight title on the title-packed card alongside Liverpool stars Paul Smith, Stephen Smith, Liam Smith, Derry Mathews and Joe Selkirk, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546).
One of Britain’s best young fighters, Butler is in hot form as he goes into his fifth fight this year with knockout wins over Anwer Alfadli, Yaqub Kareem and Najah Ali, and showing he can go the championship distance last time out by defeating Chilean Miguel Gonzalez.
Montoya, from Reynosa in the state of Tamaulipas, has stopped eight out of twelve opponents with only one points loss and a draw. The 27-year-old is also a former Mexican champion.
Butler, who is known as the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ - the same nickname as his hero the Mexican great Marco Antonio Barrera - is looking forward to a battle with Montoya as he pushes towards the world stage.
“I’ve seen a bit of Montoya and he looks tough and strong and it could turn out to be a bit of a war against him,” Said Butler.
“He looks like your typical Mexican, strong and aggressive, and will give it a good go, he won’t be coming over here to roll over so I’m going in expecting a right hard fight against him,”
“I’ll look to keep him on the end of my jab and start breaking him down with body shots and ideally I want to stop him instead of it going the full distance,”
“I’m excited to be going in against my first Mexican since turning pro, it’s like a rights of passage to get your first Mexican fighter out of the way so I’m looking forward to taking him on. They’ll be more in my career as their are plenty of Mexicans, Filipinos and Thais at my weight,”
“I was a bit frustrated last time against Gonzalez who I thought would come forward more but he ended up being cagey and on the backfoot, on a positive note I did the full twelve rounds at a good pace and that was great experience.”
Butler, who also holds the British and Commonwealth titles, is also excited that the Vacant WBA Intercontinental belt will be up for grabs.
“It’s nice to collect a new belt after a fight and I aim to win this belt to go alongside my British, Commonwealth and WBO Intercontinental titles,”
“Although they are nice to look at, they are important titles to get ranked as I build towards a world title shot and ultimately that is the title I want to win.”
The Liverpool Echo Arena show is headlined by Paul Smith’s defence of his British Super-Middleweight title against Luke Blackledge; Stephen Smith’s British Super-Featherweight title defence against Gary Sykes and Liam Smith’s defence of his British Light-Middleweight title.
Liverpool’s big-hitting, all-action, star Derry Mathews features in an exciting showdown when he challenges the tough Irish battler and WBO European Lightweight Champion Stephen Ormond.
A further big title fight added to the card sees a potential thriller between the unbeaten Joe Selkirk and Oldham’s hard-hitting Ronnie Heffron for the Vacant WBO European Light-Middleweight title.
The undercard will feature Ellesmere Port’s fast-rising lightweight Matty Fagan; top unbeaten Welsh talents Craig Evans (super-featherweight) and Liam Williams (middleweight) will both feature and making his debut for Queensberry Promotions will be Stoke welterweight Josh McLaren who will be looking to make a big impression. Completing the card will be Manchester’s Liam Cullen (cruiserweight) and Ciaran McVarnock (featherweight).
MATHEWS AND ORMOND BOTH PREDICT A THRILLER
Liverpool star Derry Mathews is predicting an explosive clash against Stephen Ormond when he challenges the tough Irishman for his WBO European Lightweight title at the Echo Arena on Saturday 7th December.
Mathews says that his fight could eclipse the other big title fights on the card that include brothers Paul, Stephen and Liam Smith who all defend their British titles, plus Ellesmere Port sensation Paul Butler and Joe Selkirk, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch.. 437/Virgin Ch. 546).
The 30-year-old recently signed with Queensberry Promotions to rejoin original promoter Frank Warren and Mathews, who has a reputation for getting involved in brutal and exciting wars, is looking forward to be back fighting in front of a huge home crowd.
His thriller against Anthony Crolla in March was named Fight of the Year at the British Board of Control awards and he’s had two big stoppage wins since against Tommy Coyle and Curtis Woodhouse.
“It’s a fantastic show with all the other lads on the card, but I’ll be looking to put on a stunning performance for the fans in what could be a right tear up between me and Ormond,” Said Mathews.
“He’s a good fighter and he’ll come to win and I know that I’ll have to be switched on and ready for him, but I love to get involved in exciting fights for the fans and they’ll get their money’s worth with this one,”
“I believe that I’m a level above Ormond and I hit harder and faster, I don’t think he’ll be able to match me, but we’ll find out on the night.”
Ormond, from Dublin, has had a busy few weeks winning the title against Adam Mate in London with a stunning first round stoppage and made a quick first defence against Adam Dingsdale to win on points.
Trained by Paschal Collins, brother of former WBO World Super-Middleweight Champion Steve, Ormond says he only fights one way and that’s coming forward.
“I can’t wait for this one, Mathews is perfect for me,” said Ormond.
“He’s exciting, he likes to have a fight, he’s a warrior and he wants to win, I’ve got nothing but respect for him, but that will go out the window when we’re in the ring and I’ve got my own job to do and that is to win,”
“I only fight coming forward and I won’t have to go looking for him, he’s a big lad for lightweight, he’s got that long body that I will have to chop down like a tree,”
“It will be great for the fans, I aim to entertain and I’ll be the one leaving the ring with my belt.”
Tickets are on sale now priced at £40, £50, £70, £100 & £150 and are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or online at www.echoarena.com
EAMONN O’KANE: ‘I’M BETTER THAN KERRY HOPE IN EVERY DEPARTMENT.’
Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Eamonn O’Kane knows that nothing less than an emphatic victory will suffice when he squares off against Merthyr’s Kerry Hope for the IBF International title at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena this weekend.
Watch the whole promotion – headlined by Carl Frampton’s European title defence and IBF World Title Eliminator against France’s Jeremy Parodi – live and exclusive in the UK, by tuning into BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, from 7pm on Saturday evening (Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546). Join at www.boxnation.com
The Dungiven middleweight, a former Prizefighter winner, has resurrected his pro career with a brace of victories after stumbling against Islington’s John Ryder last December.
But at 31, the Francie McNicol managed Ulsterman knows there is no margin for error if he is to realise his ambitions at world level.
Ahead of the ‘make or break’ scrap, boxing writer Glynn Evans caught up with ‘King Kane’ to discuss life as a fighter.
Ulster has always been a fertile breeding ground for prizefighters. How did you first become attracted to the sport?
My dad had done a bit of boxing, as had my brother Gary who’s six years older. I just followed him to the local St Candice’s boxing gym when I was six years old and it all evolved from there.
What do you recall of your amateur career?
I stayed at St Candice’s from the age of six until 24, then moved to the Immaculata in west Belfast for my final four years.
I began competing when I was 11 and, all told, I’d have had something in the region of 250 amateur bouts and probably won over 200 of them. I won the Ulster title almost every season, junior and senior, and also won five or six All Ireland titles.
The main highlights in an international singlet would have been winning bronze at the 2008 European Seniors in Liverpool and, of course, my gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
I also won a gold at the Commonwealth (Federation) championships in 2007, beating George Groves in the final. I think it was George’s last amateur fight. I’d previously got beaten in the 2005 final of the same tournament by James DeGale in Glasgow.
I fought plenty of other good names. (Future WBC light-heavyweight world champion) Jean Pascal beat me in a multi-nations in Cork and Andre Dirrell beat me over in the USA. Most of the very top kids beat me but I always gave them good fights.
I’d previously boxed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia but got robbed of a medal against a Samoan in the quarter-final. Putting right that injustice was a major factor in me staying on until after the 2010 Games.
In India, Northern Ireland had a very strong boxing squad including the likes of Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlon so I was very honoured to be made captain. Because I’d won medals at previous big international tournaments, there were reasonably high hopes for me to medal but I don’t think anybody expected me to win the gold. However, my body and mind were both right going into that tournament. We’d dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s.
In the final, I beat Anthony Ogogo who behaved a little bit like a spoilt child afterwards. The whole crowd thought I deserved the decision so I’m not sure what his problem was. Anthony had beaten the world number one from India in the semi and was a very good technical boxer but pretty textbook and easy to read. A bit predictable.
It was a high intensity fight and I deserved to win. That was a massive moment for both me and my family.
You were already 28 when you finally took the plunge into the professional code in June 2011. Was that a difficult decision to make?
One regret was that I never made it to the Olympics but middleweight was a very competitive division in Ireland. I had Darren Sutherland and Andy Lee to contend with. Darren beat me twice and Andy beat three or four times, and I couldn’t really complain about any of those decisions. They were just better than me at that stage of my development.
But I’d already been around the world and done what I wanted as an amateur. I knew that even if I qualified for London 2012 and got a medal, it’d be too late at 30 for me to make much of an impact in the pros.
I’d created a profile for myself by winning gold in Delhi so it was now or never. Just before I signed professional, the World Series of Boxing started up. I was touted by the Dolce and Gabbana squad in Milan. I had three bouts for them without the headguard and vest, over five-three minute rounds. I won all three beating a Turk, Frenchman and Russian. That confirmed to me that I should give the pro game a go.
You’d only had four pro fights when you entered Prizefighter in May 2012. Were you apprehensive going in?
A bit. It was an all Irish field, the standard was very high so it was a risky business. But I’d never ducked anyone. I wanted to move on in the pros and the prospect of getting three fights in one evening was very appealing.
I was acutely aware that Prizefighter is ‘crazy boxing’ and that night I was far from pretty. But my method was effective. Winning Prizefighter, particularly at home in The King’s Hall, certainly moved me up the mix, to where I wanted to be.
That success effectively elevated you into a British title eliminator against Islington’s John Ryder but, after a solid start, you were stopped in round eight. What went wrong that night?
Basically, my balls were too big. As I say, I’ve never ducked anyone, amateur or pro, so when the chance was offered to me at 13 days notice I took it, even though I had a stone and a half to lose.
I’d actually been out the gym for a while because I’d had a cut sparring (ex British featherweight champion) Martin Lindsay at the Immaculata. I’d had no southpaw sparring to prepare for Ryder and basically worked my balls off just to shift the weight.
But it was my decision to step up and things didn’t work out. I have to say that John Ryder is a very good talent and a great lad but I’d never take another fight unprepared, as I did that night. That was a lesson learned. You have to be 100% professional.
I didn’t look pretty that night but I had me winning until John landed the shots that finished the fight. Even then, I felt the ref, Howard Foster, waved it off a wee bit early.
John went on to run Billy Joe Saunders very close for the (British) title. Before getting stopped due to poor condition, I felt I was handling Ryder more comfortably than Billy Joe did so that gave me confidence of what I could achieve with perfect preparation.
You’ve rebounded with a brace of wins against ex Southern Area king Gary Boulden (pts6) and old nemesis Anthony Fitzgerald, in a match for the Irish title (wpts 10). How did you feel in those comeback fights?
After the Ryder loss, I decided I had to make a change. I was starting to get a lot of criticism for having a rushing, street fighting style so I opted to leave my coach ‘Nugget’ Nugent and move to Bernard Checa.
It was very difficult because ‘Nugget’ was a good friend and he’d been with me from the amateurs. It hurt me but I had to consider what was best for my career.
Bernard is a fantastic technical coach but we’d only been together for six weeks before the Boulden fight and I gave a very confused performance, was probably only 30% of my potential.
But gradually Bernard’s got me back to boxing properly. Fitzgerald had done a lot of talking on the internet and social media sites beforehand, claiming he was robbed when I beat him in Prizefighter. However, even with a point deducted, I beat him very comfortably and took satisfaction putting that to bed.
Since, in the gym with Bernard, I’ve continued to make improvements, and you’ll see even better skills again this Saturday.
What value do you place on your Irish title?
Well, it was my first belt as a pro and I was proud to win it but I’m definitely looking to win a world title so this is just a stepping stone. In world terms it doesn’t mean too much. There are bigger and better belts out there.
A defence against ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan would be interesting!
I don’t think that’s on the cards. Neither ‘Spike’ nor myself have ever been the type for calling opponents out. We helped each other prepare before I fought Anthony Fitzgerald and he fought Billy Joe Saunders. He and his team are gentlemen, great guys. Though we’re the same weight, there’s no needle there.
Tell us a little about your life outside the ring.
I’m very happily married and I’ve two great wee boys, aged four and two, who take up most of my time. I don’t work away from boxing but I’ve actually got a degree in electronics and a Masters in computers. Hopefully, with a bit of retraining, I can follow that route after I’m done (in the ring).
I don’t drink, smoke or party but I can still have a good time. I love the movies and playing a bit of poker.
The British middleweight scene is presently white hot with talents such as Darren Barker, Martin Murray, Matt Macklin, Billy Joe Saunders and Ryder. In your opinion, who’s top dog?
It’s very hard to call. Macklin and Murray both proved their worth in world title fights against Felix Sturm in Germany – I thought both won – and Barker did a great job to beat Daniel Geale over in Atlantic City. It’s a toss of a coin between any of them really but I guess you have to give the edge to Barker simply because he’s world champion at the moment.
Saturday’s showdown with former European champion Kerry Hope is a huge crossroads fight for the pair of you. You’re both 31 and will struggle to re-establish at top flight if you’re beaten. What’s your assessment of the Welshman?
You can watch too much of opponents but I’ve actually been on the same bills as Kerry a couple of times so I know him quite well. I fought the same night that he delivered that massive performance to beat Greg Proksa to win the European and I was delighted for him. The night I lost to Ryder, he was stopped by Darren Barker.
Kerry’s a down to earth guy who’s a very good boxer and pretty strong. He’s done the ten and twelve round distance more than I have so I’ve had to train accordingly to combat that.
How has your prep gone?
Unlike for Ryder, I’ve had loads of notice and I’ve been working hard with Bernard at his gym. There’s loads of other top pros there like Luke Wilton, Marty Rogan, Paul McCloskey, and Brian Magee.
I’ve had loads of quality sparring. I know that, like Ryder, Kerry is a southpaw but people shouldn’t read too much into that. I handled loads in the amateurs and it wasn’t John being a southpaw that fazed me, it was my lack of prep.
I grew up sparring Paul McCloskey, the most awkward southpaw out there; a nightmare!
What type of fight do you envisage and why do you win?
Kerry has a very good workrate so I expect a high intensity fight, one that’s really good for the Belfast fans to watch. But my ‘street fighting’ style has gone. I’ll still throw plenty of punches but I’ll be looking to box.
No disrespect to Kerry but I strongly believe that I’m a better boxer than he is, a better fighter than he is, and stronger than he is. I believe I have him in every department and I’m really looking forward to it.
If you come through successfully what do you hope it will lead to?
My understanding is that winning this International belt will place me in the top 15 world rankings with the IBF. That could get me right into the mix.
At 31, I’m not looking to hang about. I believe if the right fights can be made, against the likes of Saunders, Macklin and Murray, I’ve got the ability to work myself into the world title mix.
I just want an opportunity to find out. If it doesn’t happen for me, it’ll be: ‘Good luck to the rest of you. See you later!
In Depth With Jamie Conlon
Belfast super-flyweight Jamie Conlon gets a gilt-edged opportunity to showcase his considerable wares to the nation’s fight fans this weekend.
Unbeaten in nine pro gigs, with five stoppage wins, the spiteful little Ulsterman receives his stiffest test thus far when he fronts up to former French flyweight champion Hassan Azaouagh before an 8,000 sell out at the Odyssey Arena in his home city.
See how Conlon fares and watch the whole promotion – headlined by Carl Frampton’s European title defence and IBF World Title Eliminator against France’s Jeremy Parodi – live and exclusive in the UK on BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, from 7pm on Saturday evening (Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546). Join at www.boxnation.com
Last night, boxing writer Glynn Evans called up the touted talent to investigate his background and career inside the ring.
Name: Jamie Conlan
Family background: I’m the eldest of four boys. My Dad John, who’s originally from Dublin, did a bit of boxing as an amateur and two of my three younger brothers boxed. One year, all three of us won All-Ireland juvenile titles the same season but Brendan gave it up once he found girls!
My brother Michael, who’s just 22, is away at the World (amateur) Championships in Kazakhstan as we speak. He won a silver at the 2013 European Seniors in Minsk and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. Michael and I have just brought a house together in Belfast.
Trade: I’m a qualified aircraft fitter.
Nickname: ‘The Mexican’. One of the papers gave it to me a wee while back because they thought I looked ‘swarthy’. Now all my fans wear sombreros.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? My dad really wanted me to get into it but I was far more into football. He told me that (ex England footballer) Michael Owen, who was also small as a kid, had trained as an amateur boxer to build up his strength.
When I was 12 or 13, dad said if I went to the local amateur gym three nights a week for a year he’d give me £50. Once I started going, I got hooked. I forgot about the £50 and he never did give it to me.
What do you recall of your amateur career? I always boxed for the St John Bosco club in west Belfast. For the first year I never told a soul that I’d started up. I was a small, quiet, shy kid but boxing really developed my confidence and gradually earned me respect.
After training for about a year, I finally had my first bout, aged about 13. I was coached by my father and a guy called Sean McCafferty who went to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. All told I had 118 amateur fights with 11 losses. I boxed for Northern Ireland or All Ireland about 30 times and most of my defeats came at international level.
I won four or five All-Ireland junior titles, then the National Under 21 title and one All-Ireland senior title. I won three Four Nations gold medals and one silver. I loved that tournament.
I also got a European Union bronze, and won golds at two or three multi-nations events. I boxed at the 2005 European Juniors in Estonia plus the European Seniors at another old Soviet country, can’t remember which. I never made the Olympic qualifiers or Commonwealth Games squad.
I travelled all over; Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Hungary, Austria....I went to the US three or four times and once got beaten on points by (triple Olympian) Rau’shee Warren in his home town, when I was just 17. He was very fast but had no power.
Another time we went on a month long trip to Canada. I won all four of my fights over there and was awarded Best Boxer of the Tour.
I enjoyed the camaraderie of my squad mates but, being a home bird, I didn’t enjoy the travelling, particularly weekend squad training in Dublin.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I’d briefly fallen out of love with the game. I’d had a few bad decisions and wasn’t giving it 100%.
One year, both myself and my brother Michael got to the Ulster final at flyweight. We were supposed to box each other. After chatting to (pro trainer) John Breen, I withdrew and turned pro. Michael had a walkover and I handed him the trophy inside the ring. It was a kind of passing of the guard. John breathed fresh life into me. Winning the British professional title became my new goal.
Tell us about your back up team: I’ve no promotional deal at present but I’m managed by John Breen and I’d not trust anyone else as much as I trust him. John also trains me alongside (ex WBU welter champion) Eamonn Magee.
Eamonn’s been in every situation, understands if you’ve had a bad day in training. Despite his hard man reputation, Eamonn’s just a big softie. When I was a wee boy, he gave me his programme of when he boxed Shane Mosley in an Ireland v USA amateur meet.
A guy called John Mulhearn, who’s the head guy at the university here, helps out with my strength and conditioning and has developed a nutrition program for me. He used to box for my dad as an amateur. Since working with him I’ve felt far stronger.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I train six days a week. I start with my run at 6am. I gradually build up the distance as I progress through my camp and work up to a six and a half mile mountain run.
Around one o’clock I’ll go to Breen’s Gym above the Monico Bar in Belfast City Centre. If it’s a sparring day, I’ll warm myself up then it’ll be straight in to four rounds, usually with my brother (Michael) and Paddy Barnes, two Olympic medallists. I also do a lot with (local featherweight prospect) Marco McCullough.
Next week, I’ll be sparring six rounds at a time, the week after that it’ll be eight rounds, then ten. I’ll finish off with some light pad work, shadow boxing and a stretch.
If we’re not sparring, I’ll just do bags and pads. Eamonn’s a brilliant pad man. Eight rounds with him at John’s little gym with the heaters full on is worse than any 12 round fight. He’s still very fast and not averse to giving me a ‘full on’ smack if I make a mistake. I’ve had a few black eyes off him!
Sparring is my favourite part of training because I get to hit someone. I least like running, even though I’m pretty good at it. I get bored so easily and always get huge ‘snotters’ dripping from my nose!
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I can box from the outside but I most enjoy the later rounds when it starts to get uncomfortable. That’s when I come into my own; when the opponent starts to tire and I can mix it up. I like to break them down with body shots.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? I need sterner tests over longer distances to gain experience. I need to pass a few more ‘gut checks’.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? In the amateurs you were trained to explode for nine minutes. In the pros, you’re able to take your time and sit down on your shots. Also, you train more for stamina, for longer fights. I’m definitely better suited to the pros. After three rounds in the amateurs, I was just getting started.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? That’d be my brother Michael. He does things that no one else can do. He has a really high work rate and great determination. If you clip him, he’ll try to repay you with three or four. He’s got great speed and reactions which make him a great counter puncher. If you miss, he makes you pay.
All time favourite fighter: Either Alexis Arguello or Erik Morales. I like the Latins. I watch both a lot on You Tube.
All time favourite fight: Morales-Barrera I. All the rest of the family were Barrera fans but Michael and I were rooting for Morales.
Which current match would you most like to see made? Leo Santa Cruz against Carl Frampton. It’d be Santa Cruz’s work rate against Carl’s skills. It’s a tough call but I’d have to go with my fellow Irishman.
What is your routine on fight day? I sleep on late, then try to take it easy all day. I’ll have some pasta and chicken around lunchtime and that’ll do me. I used to play snooker all day and I like to have a nice long walk to stretch my legs.
I don’t like to discuss boxing at all, even when I’m in the changing rooms. I’ll just shoot the breeze about anything else.
I don’t suffer from nerves and I always focus on myself, what I need to be doing, rather than the opponent. I know I’ve left nothing unturned in preparation, that I’m physically as fit as can be, so I’m always confident of victory.
Entrance music: On Saturday, it’ll be the same Mexican music that Michael Gomez used to walk in to.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? To finish up happy that I was the best I could possibly have been, that I did all I could with my talent.
How do you relax? I like to play six-a-side football with the lads. I like watching and playing most sports like darts, golf, snooker and pool. I like to keep myself busy.
Football team: I’m ashamed to admit it but Aston Villa! An uncle on my dad’s side was a Villa fanatic and he bought me a few (replica) shirts. When I was growing up they won a few League Cups so I stuck with them. You can’t change your team. Besides, Paul Lambert is doing a very good job. I went over to Villa Park once.
I’ve been to Celtic a few times and the atmosphere there is always brilliant. At home, I root for Cliftonville.
Read: Right now, I’m reading an 800 page biography on Che Guevara. I like revolutionaries. It’s a good old read. In camp, I like something that helps me go to sleep!
Music: Soul music. My favourite band is Earth, Wind and Fire.
Films/TV: My favourite film is probably ‘Gangs of New York’. I once met Daniel Day Lewis before one of my fights and he seemed a really nice guy. On TV, I like Boardwalk Empire and The Office, particularly the US version.
Aspiration in life: For people to say that I did everything the best I could and with a smile on my face.
Motto: Don’t do anything half-hearted.Tags: Derry Mathews , Kerry Hope , Paul Butler