Butler open to Conlan scrap but has IBF business first

By Steve Wellings

Paul Butler is relishing his March 6 clash with hard-hitting South African Zolani Tete in Liverpool. The talented super-flyweight is not content with winning a world title at bantamweight but he is now chasing history when he moves down in weight to battle Tete for the IBF crown one division south. Speaking in Belfast recently, when Paul was over watching gym mate Ciaran McVarnock make his Irish debut, the Chester boxer explained how well his preparations have been moving along.

“It’s gone perfect and obviously we’ve had a long time to prepare for this. He pulled out [after the fight was originally scheduled] in October which was a bit of a disappointment but we’ve had from before Christmas to look forward to the March 6 bill. Now I can finally get my hands on him! I’m trained hard, sparring’s gone well and hopefully everything goes to plan on March 6 when I take the world title off him.”

Butler won the IBF bantamweight title in June 2014 by defeating Darlington’s “Cinderella Man” Stuart Hall over 12 rounds. Hall had defied the odds previously by taking the title against Vusi Malinga and one defence later (a spurious Technical Decision win over Martin Ward) Stuey was busy boxing Butler. Despite a close, intense battle it was Butler who took the spoils and left the arena with the world crown on a night he fondly recalls.

“It was a great night and obviously the biggest win of my career so far,” agreed the 26-year-old who plies his trade on BoxNation TV. “Every boy wants to go out and win the Lonsdale titles or the Commonwealth but I always dreamt of winning a world title and that night my dream came true. Obviously you set goals and I want to win a world title and I want to unify a division so dropping back down to my natural weight of super-flyweight means I can do it again now. I’ll never forget the night I beat Stuey Hall, it was unbelievable.”

Butler may not be a regular visitor across the water to Belfast but he is well aware of one unbeaten boxer flittering close to his radar of late. West Belfast stylist Jamie Conlan has been itching for a big opportunity for a number of years and it seemed possible that Conlan and Butler could meet for a WBO title showdown.

“I’ve seen quite a lot of Conlan. I boxed him as an amateur and beat him, but that’s amateurs and this is a completely different sport so it means nothing. From what I’ve seen of him he’s a good fighter but I believe it’s all about levels in this sport and I believe I’m a couple of levels above Jamie at the moment.

“We were due to fight; it got put down as a WBO final eliminator which we accepted and they didn’t so we got made mandatory for the WBO. I’m now mandatory and I think he has got a good ranking with the WBO. So if I win this IBF title and have a voluntary then I want to unify the division and hopefully me and Jamie can get it on.”

For now it’s Tete and the world title bout that occupies Butler’s thinking, although he was impressed with what he saw of Mark Dunlop’s Devenish show on February 7.

“I came over to support my gym mate Ciaran [McVarnock] who had a good win over six-two minute rounds. It’s my first time in Belfast and there were some cracking little fights on tonight,” he said.

Steve Wellings writes the Irish Boxing Review books.

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