STUART HALL will return to the ring in Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena to make the second defence of his IBF World Bantamweight title against the unbeaten Paul Butler on Saturday, June 7.
Darlington's Hall retained his crown last month when his fight with fellow North-Easterner Martin Ward ended in a draw after the pair clashed heads at the end of the opening round.
He will make a rapid return to the ring in seven weeks time to face Butler, a 25-year-old from Ellesmere Port who has won all 15 of his fights since entering the professional ranks in 2011.
The youngster is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in British boxing, but having sparred with him in the past, Hall is confident he will not pose too many problems ahead of an anticipated mandatory defence in the autumn.
“Butler is a very good fighter, and his performances have got himself into this position,” said Hall. “But he's also talked himself into this fight by making derogatory comments and I'm really looking forward to making him eat his words.
“I'll be too big, too strong and he'll regret getting this chance. I've worked hard to become world champion, and I won't be losing the title.
“I'll take care of Butler before moving on to my mandatory challenger later in the year. This will be another amazing occasion for the North-East – the support I got in my last fight was incredible, and me and the fans will do the region proud again.”
Butler has done most of his fighting at super-flyweight, claiming the British, Commonwealth, WBO and WBA Inter-Continental titles at the lower weight.
He stepped up to bantamweight for the first time last month, and produced a fluent debut as he became the first man to stop Argentinian Oreste Bernabe Nieva.
“It's the fight I've wanted, and I know I've got the skill and fire power to beat Hall and take the world title from him,” said Butler. “Hall's a good, strong fighter. He's the world champion and I respect him for that.
“But all respect will go out of the window on the night, and I will do my job and I'll go out and smoke his boots. To fight for the world title is every fighter's dream, and I'll realise that dream on June 7.”
The fight will be co-promoted by Dennis Hobson, who promotes Hall, and Francis Warren, who looks after Butler, with the former confident the reigning champion will have too much know-how for an inexperienced, if admittedly dangerous, opponent.
“Paul is a very accomplished fighter, and I think he's a future world champion, but I believe this chance has come too early for him, and against the wrong opponent,” said Hobson.
“Stuart has got everything you need in a world champion. He's incredibly strong, he's brave and his boxing skills are hugely underrated.
“He'll be on top of Butler from the opening bell, and I'm confident he'll have too much for him. I'm very pleased we're able to make this voluntary defence before Stuart takes on his mandatory challenger later in the year.”
* Tickets for the June 7 fight are priced at £40, £60, £75, £150 and £200, and are available from the Metro Radio Arena booking line on 0844 493 6666 or www.metroradioarena.co.uk. Details of the undercard will be announced in due course.