Stuart Hall vs. Paul Butler: Preview and Prediction for World Title Fight
Stuart Hall returns to the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle less than three months after his last appearance at the venue to face unbeaten challenger Paul Butler in a fight for Hall's IBF Bantamweight title.
That last outing, against Martin Ward in his first title defence, was stopped in the second round on an accidental headbutt, sending the fans home disappointed after what had been a big build-up for the return of world-championship boxing to the north east of England.
Butler is a more formidable opponent than Ward, who had two losses on his record despite being at a relatively low level of the fight game. Hall was granted a second voluntary defence by the IBF on the basis of the quick turnaround for this fight.
The winner of Saturday's bout will have to defend against Randy Caballero, a rising American talent who has a record of 21-0.
Last weekend, domestic rival Jamie McDonnell picked up the WBA "regular" belt against Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat. McDonnell is probably the most proven Brit in the bantamweight division, despite having dropped a decision to Lee Haskins back in 2008.
As such, Hall-Butler is really only a British-level fight. In terms of the combatants' proven quality to date, the bout is perhaps European level—the winner will need to go on to beat Caballero before he truly earns the respect of international fight fans.
On the undercard there is a tasty British Cruiserweight title between champion Jon-Lewis Dickinson, who has the amateur pedigree, and Ovill McKenzie, the self-styled "Upsetter" who brings power and excitement.
Here is the preview for Stuart Hall against Paul Butler.
Stuart Hall, 34, turned pro at the relatively late age of 28. Despite winning the British Lonsdale belt in the bantamweight division, he was never really seen as a top-level talent.
However, he rose to the occasion in December, beating Vusi Malinga by decision to claim the vacant IBF belt, which Jamie McDonnell had lost outside of the ring due to boxing politics.
Malinga had previously fallen short in two shots at world titles, in which he didn't come close to victory, so a win over the South African is not enough to prove Hall is a world-class operator just yet.
Hall has losses on his record to McDonnell in 2011 and Lee Haskins in 2012, both by decision, but it would be fair to say he has raised his game, buoyed by the prestige of his world title.
By comparison, Paul Butler, 25, has been tipped for success from an early age after a more impressive amateur career than the champion.
Butler has fought most of his career as a super flyweight, so neither he nor Hall have not fought any opponents that would make for a meaningful comparison. Although Butler has looked classy winning all 15 of his fights to date, Hall represents a definite step up in opposition.
In his last fight, Butler made the move to bantamweight with the intention of landing this fight, and he won by fourth-round stoppage against Oreste Bernabe Nieva, a young Argentine who isn't good enough to tell us too much about his conqueror.
The perception that Butler is expecting an easy night has riled Hall in the build-up to this bout, with the champion telling the Daily Mail: "He thinks he is the next Floyd Mayweather. He’s shouting his mouth off like he’s some sort of Superman."
The two have sparred in the past, and both seem to have taken some confidence from those experiences.
The biggest advantage Hall brings into this fight is pure size. At 5′8″, he is at the absolute top end for a bantamweight while Butler, who is around 5′5″, is noticeably the smaller man when the two stand head-to-head.
The two fighters have similar KO ratios—Hall with seven across 16 wins, Butler with eight from 15—but Hall has been fighting both at a higher weight and against a higher quality of opposition. You would therefore expect the Darlington man to have the edge in power.
As noted before the Ward fight, Hall's knockdown of Malinga was impressive—it's a feat that the much more highly rated Leo Santa Cruz did not achieve against the same man, even if he didn't force a stoppage.
The right hand that decked Malinga is Hall's best punch and is the most likely chance that this contest ends with a single shot.
Hall also has more experience than his opponent, and he has gone the 12-round distance five times. There can be no questioning his heart and determination—despite some tough nights he has never been stopped.
The man himself predicts that those intangibles will win the day, arguing in the aforementioned Daily Mail article: "I know I've got a bigger heart than him; he might be a bit sharper but you need heart to win a world title."
Butler is rated as having a good boxing brain, quick movement and the ability to pick his shots well and utilise unusual angles.
In particular, he is noted for his body punches—it was one such blow that did for Nieva last time out.
Given that Hall has never been stopped, Butler should prepare to go the full distance, which shouldn't be too much of a problem as, despite his relative youth, he has two 12-round fights on his ledger.
One advantage for Butler is that he has the blueprint on how to beat Hall from the McDonnell and Haskins fights, whereas there is no equivalent for Hall to study against the unbeaten man from Merseyside.
Butler told Glynn Evans at BoxNation:
Stuey's very game if you just stand in front of him. That's where others have gone wrong. Jamie McDonnell didn't stand in front of him, Lee Haskins didn't stand in front of him. They both beat him comfortably. Anyone with speed and know-how can beat Stuey every day of the week.
Hall is the rugged sort, but he is a little bit basic as a boxer—as you might expect from someone who turned pro so late in the day.
Butler is right that McDonnell and Haskins—both quick, neat fighters—were able to outbox Hall, which could be his downfall once more.
Although Hall has more experience of going long, he did tire against Malinga, and Butler believes that as the younger of the two that he will be the one to come on strong as the fight progresses.
The "Baby-faced Assasin" has also commented on Hall's tendency to leave his hands low after he throws a hook, a weakness he believes he can exploit with his boxing strategy.
Butler's biggest risk is that he is simply too small and could therefore be bossed in the ring by the strength of the larger man, Hall.
The younger man has said that he can still make super flyweight, and it is the size of the opportunity that has coaxed him into the bantamweight ranks rather than any physical necessity.
Hall himself is relying on his advantages in size and power, and he believes the challenger is underestimating him based on previous sparring with larger, more padded gloves.
Butler is also going into the proverbial lion's den as Hall is the local man in the north east and will have the majority of the crowd.
Any sign of intimidation will only encourage the champion, who will be hoping that the home crowd will play a part in his goal of bullying the younger, smaller man.
This bout brings to mind Adrien Broner's weight jump to welterweight to challenge Paulie Malignaggi, who was seen as a vulnerable world champion.
Broner was coming from lightweight and physically didn't really have any business making the move, but the gamble paid off and he scored a fairly comfortable decision win, even if Malignaggi protested it.
In his very first defence of his WBA welterweight belt, Broner came up against Marcos Maidana, who exposed the reality that Broner was not a true welterweight, dominating him with his strength and twice dropping him en route to a points win.
Like Broner, Butler is moving up in weight because he thinks a champion is beatable and because the fight was an easy one to make.
Is Hall, like Malignaggi, is a weak champion, or is he more like Maidana—a tough, powerful man established at his weight, who can dominate a young pretender whose skills can't compensate for a size deficit?
After losing to Maidana, Broner moved back down to light welterweight. If Butler fails in his challenge it is almost certain that he would make a similar move and return to super flyweight.
In recent times, it is fair to say that the bantamweight division has been at a higher level of competitiveness than super flyweight.
That was exemplified by another comparison point in the easy night's work Nonito Donaire had against long-time super flyweight champion Omar Narvaez back in 2011. Following the fight, Narvaez returned to his natural weight and is 7-0 since the failed bantamweight jump.
The bookmakers have Butler as quite a strong favourite going into this one, and he is expected to triumph on points rather than by stoppage.
The odds seem a little lopsided and underestimate the step up the younger man is making in terms of both class and weight.
Even so, Butler's promoter, Frank Warren, has a good record of placing his young fighters in winnable world title fights, as seen with the likes of Amir Khan and Ricky Burns. The eagerness on his side to make this bout suggests they are very confident in Butler's abilities.
Stuart Hall will not go gently into the night, and this fight could really ignite as he looks to defend what is his. Even then, you have to side with the better boxer and anticipate a repeat of Hall's two previous losses.
The Darlington man could win if he has genuinely improved since those fights and while the bookmakers have this a 75-25 sort of fight for Butler, it is perhaps fairer to see it as a 60-40 affair.
Overall, though, expect youth and quality to win the day.
Butler by decision.