Trained by Paul Stevenson at the Everton Red Triangle in Liverpool, unbeaten flyweight Connor Butler (4-0-1, 1KO) declared in an interview with Danny Flexen from SecondsOut that his wish list for 2021 includes having more than just one fight this year, the opportunity to showcase his skills, and a promotional contract.
Unbeaten in five fights, exciting prospect Butler was one of very few fortunate fighters to appear during 2020, shortly before lockdown on February 28, where he defeated one of Britain’s best journeymen, Brett Fidoe (13-64-5, 6KOs), on points.
The 22-year-old from Liverpool reflected back, “It was February 28 that I boxed last against Brett Fidoe on a small hall show. It just seems like so long ago, to be honest. It was a good win, I won comfortably, and after that I was expecting things to take off from there.
“I had a week off then was back in the gym straightaway, then two weeks after that we went into our first lockdown. It’s almost been a year now.”
Many pros had their fights cancelled, but the seven members of the Everton Red Triangle gym were unfortunate to lose a total of four fight dates in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Head coach Paul Stevenson adopts a unique way of working where he schedules boxing events for the entire year ahead, so his fighters are able to plan their training and personal lives around those shows.
Connor expanded, “It’s crazy because when I first turned pro I was lucky enough to be in the stable that I’m in with Paul Stevenson, who puts on shows for us through Black Flash Promotions with Pat Barrett. We got what no other we stable gets in the country – we’re given five dates at the start of the year.
“He’d say ‘Listen lads, you got five fights this year, if we can make them happen with the ticket sales’, so we were very lucky, in a sense, where we’d got given our dates at the start of the year, so we’d know when we were fighting. So, all we had to do was go to the gym and train, and then we were out.”
Butler impressed in his debut points win over Birmingham’s Reiss Taylor (2-3, 1KO) back in October 2018; then he stopped winning fighter Norbert Dodo (1-0, 1KO) in his second pro fight, and reached 3-0 by May 2019. He was then very unfortunate against Steven Maguire (0-20-1) in September that year when an accidental head clash left the visitor badly cut, which forced the fight to be cancelled in round two, resulting in a technical draw for both men.
In his last fight, he stepped up a level against Brett ‘The Threat’ Fidoe (13-59-5, 6KOs), who had only been stopped once in over 70 bouts, at the time, and came through the test with flying colours.
He fought five times within 16 months, but hasn’t stepped through the ropes for over 11 months now, much to his frustration, and the deadly virus continuously gripping the nation means that the UK is back in lockdown almost an entire year after first entering the same measures that were introduced to combat the spread of the disease.
“With this COVID-19, it has took everyone by surprise, but I’m not the only one, there are probably hundreds and thousands of boxers around the world that’s been affected, and some people are losing their jobs, being made redundant,” Connor respectfully noted. “It’s just one of those things, you just got to suck it up, stay ready and wait for them opportunities to come along.”
Keen for his chance to come, Connor is keeping fit, ticking over in the gym, staying ready for the phone to ring, and despite there being no fight dates on the horizon, the young prospect, with a maturity beyond his 22 years, doesn’t find it hard to stay focused and on weight, he explained, “I’m sort of lucky because I get my meals made for me by ‘Master Prep’, he makes the best meals I’ve ever had.
“I got a delivery today, funnily enough. He’s a boss fella and when I’ve got him on my side, I make weight easy. I never really go too heavy anyway, I do put on weight, so I’m not at fight weight now, but no one walks around at fight weight anyway, but whatever weight I get a fight made at, I make it comfortably, especially with the meal prep. I can make 8st 3oz with no problem and I can make flyweight no problem.”
Of the six other professionals Connor trains with, three of those managed to sign contracts with Queensberry Promotions around this time last year – Andrew Cain (6-0, 6KOs), Nick Ball (13-0, 6KOs) and Brad Strand (4-0, 1KO). All three fought on the same show as Connor last February, then made their BT Sport debuts together in July, all adding a win to their perfect records live on TV.
Butler was pleased to see his stable do so well on the big stage, he praised, “Them lads deserve the opportunity they got, and I can see why with the performances they put on.
“With myself, I’m waiting for an opportunity like that and been told it’s coming this year. I wanted it to happen last year, and I reckon if COVID-19 didn’t happen then I would have been on there with them as well. They way they perform, you can see why they get given those opportunities and I’m sure those opportunities are coming for me as well.”
Butler’s division is notably less busy than other weights, with just over a dozen other super-flyweights in the UK currently operating. When removing the likes of former world champions Kal Yafai (26-1, 15KOs) and Charlie Edwards (16-1, 6KOs), it places Connor within the top five in the country after just five fights.
The confident youngster feels comfortable with that lofty ranking after such a short stint in the paid ranks, stating, “I’m sparring people in the gym that are seasoned fighters, I’ve been fighting at a good level as an amateur as well, I’ve boxed all over the world, so I’ve always fought against people that are good.
“If you look at the likes of the top of the tree, like Kal Yafai and Charlie and Sunny Edwards, they seem quite a lot ahead with experience and titles because they’ve been pro for longer, but in reality, you should be comparing yourself to them; I’m just as good as them, I wanna be doing what they’re doing, and all in the right time. I’m confident in my own ability that I can be doing what they’re doing in the next few years.”
Former English super-flyweight champion and British title contender Marcel Braithwaite (9-3) is one position below seventh-placed Butler in the super-fly rankings currently. Butler reacted to hearing the name mentioned, “I’d love that fight! I’ve seen performances of him, like against Sunny Edwards, it was a great fight, and he’s a sound lad as well, fellow scouser and all that, so I’d like that fight and it’d be a good fight.”
On the other side of Butler’s position is another Scouse fighter in experienced Ryan Farrag (20-4, 5KOs), a former English and European bantamweight champion. Despite being friends, Butler was also excited at the prospect of a potential meeting in the ring, stating, “I grew up sparring Ryan since I was a kid, so got a lot of respect for him, he’s a boss lad.
“He fought Sunny [Edwards] as well, it was a proper good fight and there was a bit of needle in that one. He’s a boss lad, Ryan, he always used to take the time to talk to me and little things like that stay with you, but yeah, I’d fight him, but I’d fight anyone at the end of the day because that’s your job. So, whoever Paul [Stevenson] puts in front of me, I’m happy to fight any of them. With all this COVID-19, I just want to get in the ring and get back to what I do best!”
Desperate to get back to business, but unfortunately having his hands tied due to the global pandemic, Butler pondered about what could potentially be possible for the year ahead, “I set myself my own goals. With boxing, you can’t really make a plan because it never does go the way you want it to. For me, it’s all about staying healthy and active in the gym. But also, I want fights this year, I don’t just want one, I want a few.
“Also I’d like to have a little bit of a confirmation where I have got a contract with a promoter like Francis Warren. I want that security behind me where I’m signed with a promoter.”
About Paul Stevenson and the Everton Red Triangle Gym
Coach Paul Stevenson guided Kevin Satchell to British, Commonwealth and European flyweight titles before he retired unbeaten in 2016.
He now trains seven unbeaten prospects in his century-old boxing gym, as well as guiding the amateurs too.
Stevenson is also steering amateur starlet Peter McGrail to Olympic glory – one of very few athletes to qualify for the Tokyo Games. He has medaled in every major tournament he has entered in, which includes a Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth gold medal and, last year, he collected bronze medals in both the European Games and World Championships.
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