There was talk of respect, friendship and brotherhood as Stuart Hall and Paul Butler sat down to unveil their June world title fight – right up until the minute the challenger’s father opened his mouth from the back of the room.
Darlington’s Cinderella story Hall is a tough man who says he has “grown” into his status as IBF Bantamweight champion. His next opponent, undefeated Ellesmere Port prospect Butler, will arrive for their anticipated June 7 meeting at the Metro Arena with a burgeoning reputation and all the confidence you’d expect from a man tipped for the top by Frank Warren from a young age.
The pair have sparred before and spoke of their “respect” for each other as promoter Warren promised a potential “fight of the year” between two eminently watchable domestic talents.
But then Butler’s dad Paul Senior questioned Hall’s record, his status as a warrior and whether he had ever wanted to take the fight with his son in the first place.
Hall was unruffled – rejecting out of hand the idea that he had been running from the 25-year-old Scouser – but it prompted a stern rebuke for his opponent.
“We had a few spars in Leeds and Liverpool. He’s sharp, and I thought he was a decent kid then. But I’ve always thought I was too strong for him, and I still do,” he said. “He’ll think he has a chance, but listen, I’m a world champion and I’m not going let any bantamweight in the world beat me, let alone Paul Butler. He hasn’t fought anybody. Just look at his record – he’s fought bums.
“Wait until he gets into the ring with me. If he thinks he’s going to stop me, he’s going to have a rude awakening. I’m going to stop him. Wait until he sees me with eight ounce gloves on, hitting him in the face. I can’t wait now.”
From the outside Hall looks the favourite, but Butler is hungry and dangerous. The champion said: “It’s a much bigger step up than he thinks it is. He’s been beating up people who are nobodies.
“His record shows that. Look at the people I’ve been in the ring with. Yes, I’ve been beaten twice, but I’ve been fighting top-class fighters who are in a completely different league to anything he’s seen. They’re deluded. I know fine well he’s going to be sharp – but that’s all he’s got.
Another big crowd is expected at the Arena. “It’s added a bit of needle,” Hall said, before adding: “If he thinks I’m not a warrior then fair play. Everyone else thought I was apart from him.”
Tickets start at £40 and are available from metroradioarena.co.uk or on 0844 493 6666.