STUART HALL has dismissed Paul Butler's unbeaten record and warned his world-title opponent that his previous victories have done nothing to prepare him for June's showdown at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena.
Hall will make the second defence of his IBF World Bantamweight title on June 7, having retained his crown after last month's fight with fellow North-Easterner Martin Ward ended in an unsatisfactory draw following an early clash of heads.
HEAD TO HEAD: Stuart Hall won’t be giving up his world title easily after a defence against Paul Butler was announced in Newcastle yesterday afternoon
Yesterday's press call highlighted the needle that exists between Hall and Butler, with the latter's camp accusing the reigning champion of trying to avoid the 25-year-old, who has won all 15 of his contests since turning professional in December 2010.
Hall, who refused to be drawn into a war of words, has laughed off the accusations, and his record would suggest he has little to fear from an opponent who only stepped out of the super flyweight ranks in March.
Having seen off Sergio Perales and Vusi Malinga in the last 12 months, Darlington-based Hall boasts a top-class pedigree. So while Butler might be unbeaten, he will be taking a huge step into the unknown when he fights at world level for the first time.
“It's a much bigger step up than he thinks it is,” said Hall. “He's been beating up people who are nobodies. His record shows that. Look at the people I've been in the ring with. Yes, I've been beaten twice, but I've been fighting top-class fighters who are in a completely different league to anything he's seen.
“He'll think he has a chance, but listen, I'm a world champion and I'm not going let any bantamweight in the world beat me, let alone Paul Butler. He hasn't fought anybody.
“Just look at his record – he's fought bums. Wait until he gets into the ring with me. If he thinks he's going to stop me, he's going to have a rude awakening. I'm going to stop him. Wait until he sees me with eight ounce gloves on, hitting him in the face. I can't wait now.”
The pair have sparred together in the past, and from the tone of their comments yesterday, it is clear that familiarity has bred contempt.
Having retained his title against Ward, it is likely that Hall was hoping for a more high-profile opponent than Butler, although with a mandatory defence required before the end of the year, it was always going to be difficult to squeeze in another voluntary contest at relatively short notice.
Butler's Commonwealth and Inter-Continental victories at super flyweight entitle him to respect, but having traded blows with the Merseysider two years ago, Hall is confident he has nothing to fear when they meet for real in seven weeks time.
“We had a few spars in Leeds and Liverpool,” he said. “He's sharp, and I thought he was a decent kid then. But I've always thought I was too strong for him, and I still do.
“He's spent most of his time at a lower weight, and that'll be his excuse when I beat him. He'll be dropping back down to super fly. He's over-confident, and he's going to get the biggest shock he's ever had with me.
“I've had a couple of weeks break (since the Ward fight), but I'm back training now and feel bang on. I've only had two weeks off, so I won't have lost much there in terms of sharpness. I'll be perfect come fight night.”
Butler's most recent outing saw him claim the WBA Inter-Continental Bantamweight title when he became the first man to stop Argentinian Oreste Bernabe Nieva.
He watched Hall out-point Malinga in a fight that was rated one of the best contests of 2013, but feels his North-East opponent has been given too much credit for the victory.
He is regarded as one of British boxing's brightest young talents, and expects his speed and movement to prove decisive.
“Stuey's a great champion, but there's no two ways about it, I'm taking that title off him,” said Butler. “He can't match me with anything he does.
“I'll beat him for speed. He thinks he can punch, but he can't. Apart from the Ward fight, which finished as a draw, I don't think he's stopped anyone for seven fights.
“I've let him hit me square on the chin in sparring – I've actually put my gloves down and let him land a punch – and there's nothing there to worry me.
“I've got a good gauge of his power and he can't hurt me. I'll beat him for speed and movement, and I honestly don't think there's a way he can beat me.”
Three of Butler's last four fights have been in Liverpool, but it will be Hall that enjoys home advantage when the pair meet in Newcastle.
Last month's contest with Ward underlined the weight of the reigning champion's North-East support, but Butler insists he will not be fazed by challenging Hall in his own backyard.
“I'd fight him in his kitchen, with his best mate as the referee if he wanted,” he said. “I'll fight him anywhere, it doesn't bother me. To be honest, I'd rather it was in Newcastle – let him have all the advantage he wants because he's going to need it.
“As soon as that first bell goes, I'm going to meet him in the centre of the ring. I'll give him what he wants – if he wants to stand there and try and have a fight, he can have one. But it'll be controlled and I'll dominate.”