Paul Butler claimed the interim WBO bantamweight title with a clear decision win over Jonas Sultan tonight in Liverpool, winning on scores of 116-112, 117-111, and 118-110.
Bad Left Hook had it even wider for Butler at 119-109 on our unofficial score card.
Sultan (18-6, 11 KO) was just never able to capably cut off the ring against Butler (34-2, 15 KO), who if eventually promoted to full titleholder status if or when the WBO officially strip John Riel Casimero, will now be recognized as a two-time bantamweight world champion.
Butler, 33, had fought low-level bouts since his 2018 loss to Emmanuel Rodriguez, but the WBO rewarded him with a mandatory challenger slot for Casimero, a fight that has now failed to materialize twice on short notice. This time around, Sultan was there and ready to go, and Butler accepted the fight, likely because he believes he will be elevated and Casimero stripped. But we’ll wait to see what the WBO actually rule, because boxing is not a fair business.
Whether or not Butler really “deserved” a mandatory slot — “deserved” is another thing that rarely plays into boxing — he fought very well in this bout, neutralizing Sultan pretty much all night, and even when Sultan did get through with some decent shots, Butler ate them well and retaliated effectively.
Butler also won the IBF bantamweight title way back in 2014, when he beat Stuart Hall by split decision in Newcastle. He never defended that title, opting instead to vacate and move back down to 115 lbs for a 2015 fight with junior bantamweight titleholder Zolani Tete, which saw Butler stopped in the eighth round.
He’s never given up on getting back, and for all intents and purposes, he has now gotten back. Bantamweight has a very strong top two in Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire, but Butler is hardly leagues off some of the other generally recognized top 10 guys at the weight.
Butler vs Sultan highlights
Alejandro Meneses TKO-9 Sam Maxwell
A terrific action fight, and a pretty notable upset, as Meneses (16-5, 9 KO) was a sizable underdog who really had nothing notable on his record at all, but just couldn’t miss with his right hand and hurt Maxwell (16-1, 11 KO) repeatedly, dropping him twice before the stoppage in round nine.
Maxwell, 33, won the British and Commonwealth belts at 140 in his last fight, beating Akeem Ennis-Brown in Aug. 2021, and showed a ton of heart in this one, but even more than heart he showed a lot of defensive issues, because it’s not like the 32-year-old Meneses was in there throwing lightning fast shots or anything. Meneses, in fact, punched himself out repeatedly, to the point he was throwing about a 61 MPH fastball like when you’d leave a starting pitcher in more than five innings on an old RBI Baseball game.
But he just kept landing, and eventually Maxwell’s resistance was shattered. He was down in the fourth, but he just sort of toppled in the ninth, and that time he didn’t have enough left to hold Meneses off any longer. Honestly, if Meneses had even average hand speed, this fight probably wouldn’t have seemed close, and Maxwell probably goes sooner than the ninth.
But don’t lose sight that this was just a hell of a fight, good swings in momentum, both looking vulnerable, both showing how tough they are. On a weekend where Fury vs Whyte is getting all the attention — and understandably — we’ve now seen two outstanding fights with this one and Diaz vs Gesta on Thursday night that were way under the radar for most.
Jazza Dickens KO-5 Andoni Gago
A really nice bounce-back for Jazza Dickens, who was coming off the loss to Kid Galahad last year, as he’s now working with trainer Pete Taylor and sounded really happy with the results after the fight, as he should have.
Gago (25-5-4, 7 KO) definitely looked shopworn here, didn’t even have the spring he had last year against Gavin McDonnell or Karim Guerfi, but don’t discount that Dickens (31-4, 12 KO) looked really sharp and sort of sapped Gago’s confidence within a couple rounds. Gago was ruled down in the third, which he argued about thinking a clash of heads caused it, but he was knocked clean out on a great uppercut in the fifth.
Dickens is hoping to land a world title fight, or at least an eliminator.
“I expected 10 rounds because he’s gone good rounds and never been stopped in that fashion before, so it was a good statement,” Dickens said. “The next step for me is I need a big world title eliminator, if not a world title (fight) against somebody I’ve already beaten in Leigh Wood, or Josh Warrington.”
Wood, who has the WBA’s secondary belt — which in all reality should be the real one, but that’s another story — has been ordered a fight with with WBA “super world” champ Leo Santa Cruz, who hasn’t actually fought as a featherweight in over three years now, but the WBA never wanted to upset their favored guy by rightly stripping him, even after he won the same title a division above and was clearly not fighting at 126 anymore when he lost that belt to Gervonta Davis in 2020. Warrington just won the IBF belt from Kiko Martinez, who upset Galahad, who had beaten Dickens for the vacant belt.
Dickens beat Wood in 2020, a deserved majority decision in London. Wood has come into his own a bit since then with trainer Ben Davison, but it would be an interesting fight. Sometimes, someone just has your number.
Rocky Fielding TKO-3 Timo Laine
An easy win for Fielding, the former secondary WBA super middleweight titleholder, still most famous for getting utterly demolished by Canelo Alvarez in 2018 when Canelo wanted to dip his toes in at 168 and see how the weight treated him. Fielding is not a bad fighter, he just had no business in with Canelo.
Here, he won his third straight since then in very easy fashion, improving to 30-2 (18 KO) with a dominant win over the always-game Timo Laine (30-18, 12 KO), a 37-year-old Finn who always loses to good fighters when he fights one. Fielding is 34 at this point and the chance of him doing something more than he’s already done is fairly low, but he’s still got a place in the sport.
More undercard results
- Peter McGrail TKO-4 Uriel Lopez
- Frankie Stringer PTS-4 Simas Volosinas
- Will Cawley PTS-4 Marius Vysniauskas
- Harry Kinsella PTS-4 Cristian Narvaez
- Joe McGrail TKO-1 Mohammed Al Warith
- Steven Cairns TKO-1 Jose Hernandez
- Blane Hyland PTS-6 Stephen Jackson (57-56)