Nearly eight years after he gave up the IBF bantamweight title in an unsuccessful bid to win a world title at a lower weight, Paul Butler claimed the interim WBO bantamweight title with a unanimous points decision over Jonas Sultan, of the Philippines in Liverpool.
In a brilliant display of backfoot boxing, Butler built up a huge lead and then withstood Sultan;s late and increasingly desperate attempts to turn the fight around.
Howard Foster scored it 116-112, Fernando Laguna 117-111 and Manuel Oliver Palomo. Michael Alexander was the referee.
Sultan had stepped in at late notice for his compatriot, John Riel Casimero, who was pulled from the fight after being caught using a sauna as he struggled to make weight. It was the second time he had let Butler down at short notice, having pulled out of their first intended meeting in Dubai in December when he was also struggling to make weight.
Butler will hope to be given the full title if the WBO strip Casimero in the coming weeks.
“It’s been a long journey,” Butler said. “Dubai didn’t happen, Casimero didn’t happen again tonight but we had Sultan and for me he was a better opponent because he had beaten Casimero. We had 48 hours to make a gameplan and that is what I can do in 48 hours.
“I had to stay switched on, but now and again I wanted to stand there just to let him know he couldn’t just push me around. But you win the easy way and the easy way for me tonight was moving my feet, making him miss and making him pay.”
Butler dominated the opening two rounds on the back foot, but Sultan got closer in the third and dragged him into a scrap after being warned for a low punch.
He was back on point in the fourth and fifth round, although Butler was nailed by a good right early in the sixth round, it was a temporary blip as Butler kept catching Sultan as he pressed forward.
The pattern continued in the seventh round, but Sultan had some success in the eighth as he landed with the right when Butler fell short and then Sultan got the better of the ninth and he dragged Butler into a fight.
By the eleventh round, with Sultan desperately trying to land a big shot, Butler stood and traded in the middle of the ring, repeatedly beating the Filipino to the punch.
Sultan had more success in the last, but Butler stayed on his bike and out of trouble to see out the fight.
Former top class amateur Peter McGrail moved to 4-0 as a professional with a wonderful display of punch picking as he stopped Uriel Lopez, of Mexico, in the fourth a scheduled eight at bantamweight.
McGrail caught Lopez at will. He was too quick and had too much artillery for the Mexican, who soaked up a series of big shots.
The end came in the fourth, when McGrail dropped Lopez with a left to the body after rocking him with two lefts to the head. Lopez was up at eight but referee Steve Gray waved it off at 2:03. Lopez protested and could have continued, but there was really no point.
“I was varying my shots so he didn’t know what was coming,” McGrail said. “Sometimes people are too tough for their own good.”
Frankie Stringer made a successful professional debut as he claimed a 40-36 from referee John Latham over Simas Volosinas, of Lithuania, at lightweight.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.