NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND — The rain that lashed across Tyneside on Saturday proved a gloomy portend for the chances of local man Stuart Hall as Ellesmere Port’s Paul Butler confirmed a few suspicions previously held about him. In recording a majority decision victory over Darlington’s Hall, Butler exhibited the intractable speed and skill that have marked him as special, a lack of experience in having to field punches and a discrepancy in size that will make it difficult for him to impose himself upon the better men at bantamweight. After 12 gripping rounds, Butler, a natural junior bantamweight, managed to withstand a late surge from 34-year-old Hall to clinch his first world title via scores of 115-113, 117-111 and 113-115 (the first of which looked fairest).
Twenty-five-year-old Butler (16-0, 8 KO) blew into town with a big reputation and impressive support. Of the approximate 3,500 fans in attendance, at least half appeared to have trekked up the A1 from Merseyside to conquer one side of the Metro Radio Arena. Hall (16-3-2, 7 KO), who had to bypass them on his way into the ring, looked narked at encountering such fervent resistance on his own patch. Indeed, had three of the natives not whipped off their tops to wave over their heads, Hall could have been forgiven for thinking he wasn’t at home at all.
Butler, wired, tight and emotionally intense, swept the opening three rounds. The smaller man, wearing mauve trimmed with gold, claimed centre ring, which he then commanded with a pronounced edge in speed. Hall, seeming ruffled, continued to stalk the visitor — his face reddening with each staccato burst it was made to absorb — before adjusting in round 4 with a series of rangy right hands that slowed Butler down and forced him to trade.
After suffering a jagged split through his left brow caused by a clash of heads in the 5th, “Stuey” cracked Butler with a booming right to the body against the ropes, where he began to maul the Merseyside man, who upped his own work rate by way of retort.
For all of Butler’s speed, however, his head movement appeared lacking; Hall would time him repeatedly with telescopic rights, some of which prodded Butler’s head back far enough to see the ring lights.
Hall continued to get to grips with his quicksilver foe in the 6th. Forced to sway away from Butler’s extended, frenetic bursts, he’d regroup deliberately before shunting Butler into the ropes. The visitor, though, remained tough to pin down; he zipped in and out of range so swiftly, he at times resembled Peter Pan rigged up to a fly system.
It became difficult to split them over the next few sessions — Hall’s accuracy and power opposed Butler’s greater output and flash. Hall, though, came on in the 10th. After landing a terse left hook, he bombed Butler on the ropes. Unable to land hooks on an opponent as nippy as a bluebottle at a barbecue, Hall lanced him down the middle instead using overhand rights and uppercuts. After a grandstand finish — two rounds of rousing, two-way action — Butler just about pulled out the 12th to take the spoils. It had been a tremendous battle; spiteful, tense and hard-fought.
There were mixed fortunes for local fighters on the undercard. Birtley cruiserweight Jon-Lewis Dickinson (15-3, 4 KO) wasn’t able to deal with the latent power of Ovill McKenzie (23-12, 12 KO). The 34-year-old Derby puncher put Dickinson flat onto his back on the bell to end round 2 and Dickinson, 28, was unable to compose himself throughout Victor Loughlin’s standing count. McKenzie annexed Dickinson’s British championship alongside his own Commonwealth crown. The time was 3:09.
Sedgefield junior welterweight Bradley Saunders (10-0, 8 KO) restored local pride with a 1st round stoppage over Finn Ville Piispanen (18-5-3, 6 KO). Saunders landed a beautiful left to the body that had Piispanen writhing on the canvas to be counted out at the 1:21 mark. Saunders, a world class amateur, is going places.
Brighton’s Chris Eubank, Jr. (16-0, 11 KO) fiddled and faffed his way to a 6th round TKO over undersized Czech Stepan Horvath (12-4, 4 KO) at middleweight. Eubank, managing to be both impressive and woeful, dropped his man twice in the 5th before finishing Horvath at 2:08 of the 6th with a ripping right hook to the body. At times, though, it was difficult to concentrate on anything other than his old man’s antics and attire.
Junior looks like he’s learning something in there, at least.