There will be no big celebration tonight for Paul Butler despite being elevated to WBO bantamweight champion following the WBO’s decision to strip John Riel Casimero of the title. Butler already had plans, which meant he was at his old amateur club coaching youngsters.
The news came as little surprise after Casimero, who had withdrawn from a defense against Butler in Dubai in December when he was fighting to make weight, flouted the British Boxing Board of Control’s rules against the use of saunas for boxing. make weight for a rearranged date in the past. month. The fight was cancelled, and Butler defeated Jonas Sultan for the interim title.
Now there is a chance to fight for the undisputed title against Naoya Inoue or Nonito Donaire, who will meet for the WBC, WBA and IBF titles in Japan next month.
“I found out at 7:30 this morning,” Butler said. “I was fast asleep and my girlfriend ran into the bedroom. It was like ‘Guess what? Guess what?’ I thought someone had died. ‘You have been promoted to full champion.’ I was invented.
For Butler, 33, a long wait to become champion again is over. Eight years ago, he was an IBF champion but left to move up to super flyweight in a bid to win a world title there. It didn’t work as planned.
“Back then, everything was crazy for me: 16-fight world champion,” he said. “The British title came quickly, then the Commonwealth. He was young. This has now been a long wait. I worked hard, Rodriguez beat me and it’s been a long hard road back to the small hall shows, working my way up to mandatory positions.
“I wanted him very much in Dubai, I wanted him here at the Echo [Arena] but I think the WBO has done the right thing. The first time you can call it a bug, the second time it’s taking the mickey. I can move on from here and we can stop talking and worrying about Casimero and what he is doing.”
Butler said he sympathized with Casimero when he struggled to lose the hold in Dubai, but was shocked at the stupidity of using a sauna in the UK – which is banned to prevent boxers from becoming dangerously dehydrated – and then live-streamed him doing it.
“I felt sorry for him in Dubai because I’ve been in that position and I saw him in the gym three times a day,” Butler said.
“To get out to the pool loungers we had to walk past the gym, and we saw him there constantly. Everyone said ‘he didn’t want to fight’, he did want to fight because I saw the hard work he was doing.
“So, I felt sorry for him afterwards, because obviously he had done things wrong, he saw me and thought he just had to make weight, but it didn’t work out.
“But this time he’s uploading live videos to his Facebook live, they’re in the gym and they say ‘let’s go to the sauna’ and then they’re recording it in the sauna. What kind of equipment does that? That’s wrong.
“They had boxed here twice before, they know the rules and he had obviously done his homework with the WBO after Dubai and there he knew as long as he didn’t get on the scale he wouldn’t lose his title. You knew nothing bad was wrong with him in Dubai.
“They tried to sneak away again, but it was there on the video. So they can’t say she didn’t use it. I don’t feel sorry for him now, because if he fights that hard, he needs to move up to 122 pounds.”
Butler has not complied with the anti-sauna rules, so he knows how difficult it can be.
“I got kicked out of a WBO super flyweight eliminator in 2015 because I used a sauna,” he said. “Then I moved up to bantamweight and we started working to get to where we are now. It is there for the safety of the boxers. I think the British Boxing Board of Control does a great job.
“There will be no celebration. Tonight I’ll be in my old amateur gym. [Wirrall CP] training the kids. We have championships to come, we have two in the semis next weekend and we hope to push them towards national titles.
“It was difficult for them in lockdown. It’s hard to keep kids disciplined at the best of times, let alone when they have two years to do whatever they want when they’re not allowed to be in gyms for months at a time. But we’ve been flying since lockdown, we’ve had some national champions and the club is really bouncing back. Hopefully, by becoming a full world champion, it will give them the extra ten percent to go ahead and achieve what I have.”
If he gets the chance to box the winner of Inoue and Donaire for the undisputed title, he won’t refuse.
“If the winner of that wants to unify the entire division, that’s the route I’m going to take,” he said. “If they don’t, I’ll have to get a defense around September or October.
“You would think that they would both like to unify the division. I know Inoue has aspirations to move up again, but I’m sure he would want to unify first.
“I have never met them. I boxed on the same cards as them, when Inoue boxed [Emmanuel] Rodríguez and later when Donaire boxed [Ryan] Burnett, but I’m not one to go up and ask for a photo, though they’ll both go down as legends.
“It would be an honor to share the ring with any of them. I know it would be a huge stranger, but it’s a challenge I’d love. He was not Sultan’s favourite, let alone Casimero. My dad has always said that you only get a bite of the cherry, so you better take it.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was a boxing correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001 to 2019, covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights around the world. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications around the world since the 1980s.