Fresh from his punch-perfect performance over Alexis Ruiz in Bolton, Paul Butler is back on the hunt for another World Title at Bantamweight, where five men claim a share of the throne.
The slick Ellesmere Port fighter lifted the IBF crown in June 2014 after a split decision victory over Stuart Hall in Newcastle. After returning to 118 pounds, he is determined to win back the belt.
Under the guidance of Joe Gallagher, Ring Magazine Trainer of the Year 2015, there are a number of possible paths to world glory, including two mouth-watering domestic clashes with Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins.
LEE HASKINS (IBF)
Since being installed as Champion when Randy Caballero failed to make weight ahead of his proposed Title defence, Haskins (34-3, 14 KOs) has defended the IBF strap twice. The Bristol native earned unanimous decision wins over Ivan Morales, in Cardiff, and Stuart Hall, in London.
The bout with previous Butler-foe Hall was a mandatory defence, so Haskins could exercise a voluntary defence at the start of next year. After his last fight the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ told Steve Bunce: “I wouldn’t mind a shot at my old IBF Title, Haskins has got it. I’d like a crack at that, if Haskins is ready we can get that on next year.”
JAMIE MCDONNELL (WBA ‘Regular’)
McDonnell (28-2-1, 13 KOs) holds the ‘Regular’ WBA belt and is one of the biggest names in the Bantamweight division after overcoming the previously-unbeaten Tomoki Kameda twice on the road in Texas. The Doncaster man was the underdog in the first meeting but announced himself on the big stage with the victory.
In a recent interview with Steve Bunce, Joe Gallagher admitted “taking a scalp like McDonnell would be kudos for Paul”. McDonnell himself has spoken of a different domestic clash, a unification bout with Haskins who is the last man to beat him in 2008. Butler could then meet the winner of that fight at some stage next year.
RAU-SHEE WARREN (WBA ‘Super’)
A highly decorated amateur, in 2011 Rau-shee Warren became the first American boxer to qualify for three Olympic Games. As a pro he has just one loss and won the WBA belt in June, outpointing defending champion Juan Carlos Payano, who won their first encounter a year earlier. There was talk of facing McDonnell but it appears Warren is not keen on fighting outside of the States so a meeting with Butler seems unlikely for now.
MARLON TAPALES (WBO)
In July, Marlon Tapales (29-2, 12 KOs) beat Thailand’s Panya Uthok to become the latest Filipino boxing World Champion. Butler is currently rated at 14 with the governing body and this route could be an option. Zolani Tete, who beat Butler at Super-Flyweight in March 2015, looks set to fight in a World Title final eliminator which may occupy Tapales for the time being.
SHINSUKE YAMANAKA (WBC)
Perhaps the most dangerous of the Bantamweight bosses is Shinsuke Yamanaka (26-0-2, 18 KOs). The unbeaten 34-year-old has held the belt since 2011, but is yet to fight outside of his native Japan. Yamanaka has revealed he is seeking unification fights or an overseas match-up.
Butler has various opportunities to try and reclaim a belt at 118 pounds, and will be confident of doing so under his new partnership with Gallagher.
Watch Paul Butler discuss his World Title options: