Manny Pacquiao, second chances and new boxing brain Paul Butler looks for upset win in world title shot


Three-weight world champion John Riel Casimero has stopped six of his last seven opponents, but Paul Butler has said he is not facing the next Manny Pacquiao on Saturday.

WBO world bantamweight champion Casimero (31-4, 21 KOs) is from the Philippines like ring legend Pacquiao, who announced his retirement earlier this year after winning world titles in a record eight weight classes.

Pacquiao’s promotional company has even recently promoted Casimero, who is ranked No. 3 at 118 pounds by ESPN after he became a three-division world champion when he knocked out Zolani Tete in three rounds in November, 2019.

But the 32-year-old, from Ormoc City, was involved in a snoozer of a second title defence against a 40-year-old Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux in his last bout in August. Casimero won by split decision against former champion Rigondeaux, now 41, and Butler is far from feeling overawed by the task in front of him at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai.

“I wouldn’t go as far as saying Casimero is the next Manny Pacquiao or anything, but he hits hard and I know I’m up against it, I’ve got to be at my best to beat him,” Butler told ESPN.

“He’s a world champion so he’s a good kid, but I believe everything has gone right for me in training and if I get the game plan right on the night, I can do it.

“I’ve known about this fight for a while and I’ve had a great training camp. I signed with MTK and if I hadn’t I might not have been boxing until now. I got 10 rounds under my belt in June and that was really important.

“I’m not going to read too much into the Rigo fight… Rigo frustrated him at times by probably not doing anything.”

Butler (33-2, 15 KOs), 33, from Merseyside, England, has battled back to title contention after he missed the weight — and so forfeited the chance to challenge for the world title — when he faced Emmanuel Rodriguez for the vacant IBF belt in May 2018. Butler was floored twice in the first round and went on to lose widely on points.

“Rodriguez was a tough one to take, I had four weeks’ notice for that fight, which no one really knows about, because the promoter couldn’t put it on any other bill,” Butler said.

“I had the carrot of possibly boxing in the World Boxing Super Series, so I had to take nearly two stone off in four weeks to make the Rodriguez fight. I failed weight in the week of the fight and then I had a really bad first round, and I was just chasing the fight after that. I was told the winner of the fight against Rodriguez would go into the World Boxing Super Series, so we had to take it really.

“But this fight has been different, my preparation has been spot on.”

Casimero would have preferred to be facing WBC champion Nonito Donaire (41-6, 27 KOs), 39, who was born in Philippines but moved to California aged 11, and WBA-IBF king Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18 KOs). Donaire faces Filipino Reymart Gaballo in Carson, California, also on Saturday while Inoue — the division’s No. 1 and also No 3 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings — defends his belts against Thailand’s Aran Dipaen in his home nation of Japan Tuesday.

While Casimero might be feeling underwhelmed by the occasion, Butler says capturing another world title would beat his achievement in 2014 when he won the IBF world bantamweight title, which he then relinquished without making a defence.

“It will mean more to me this time if I win because of the hard work I’ve had to put in and setbacks I’ve gone through like Rodriguez, which did my head in because I felt got shafted,” Butler said.

“This is the time I can put all of that to bed.

“Back then, when I won the world title [against Stuey Hall in 2014] and fought Zolani Tete [Butler lost in the eighth round for the world junior bantamweight title in 2015], I wasted a lot of shots. I didn’t have the boxing brain I have now, that I have got since working with [trainer] Joe Gallagher.

“I’m a coach now myself with amateur boxers and that has helped me with studying a fighter more and understanding the game a bit better. Looking back, a lot of shots I threw realistically didn’t always hurt. Now I’m a more educated fighter.”

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