Butler exit gives McVarnock another chance to shine

Ciaran McVarnock says he was "absolutely gutted" when Paul Butler (above) parted company from Anthony Farnell's Manchester gym
Andy Watters

WHEN one door closes, another one opens, so news that stablemate Paul Butler has left Anthony Farnell’s Manchester gym for pastures new has created an opportunity for Belfast super-featherweight Ciaran McVarnock.

‘Bunty’, who took his record to 5-0-1 over a busy 2015, wants to step on the gas this year and, though he admits he was “absolutely gutted” by news that potential Jamie Conlan foe Butler was parting company with Farnell, he knows it leaves a gap he could fill.

“What can you do?” he asked.

“The gym’s not all about Paul Butler, there are other fighters, but he was always good to have in the gym because he motivated us. He was good for sparring and we learned from him. But he’s not there now, so we have to get on with it and kick on.

“Paul was number one in the gym because of what he had achieved and the level he was at. Everyone looked up to him, but now the gym is full of prospects all looking to win their first titles and everyone is going to want to take over Paul Butler’s spot and be the first to win that title and become number one. It’s going to motivate everyone.”

Butler’s long-awaited showdown with Belfast rival Jamie Conlan is rumoured to be in the mix for Belfast in September. McVarnock hopes to feature on the undercard: “That would be good for me,” he said.

“I’d get on a big show back home and I’d still fancy Paul to win it. Frank Warren is looking to hold shows in Belfast and he’s got me, Jamie Conlan, James Tennyson and Joseph Fitzpatrick now. He’d love to hold a show in Belfast because of the crowd that goes to the fights and Paul Butler and Jamie would be a big domestic fight that would sell out.”

In the interim, McVarnock intends to stay busy. An injury picked up in training means he can’t punch with his right hand, but he’s working hard ahead of his first fight of the year at Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium on May 13.

“I’m flat-out training away,” he said.

“I’m working on my defence and footwork and keeping the weight down and everything else possible. You get these injuries and niggles and you just have to get through them.”

After a single fight in each of his first two years as a pro, 2015 represented a considerable step up in intensity for McVarnock, who won three and drew one - against ‘bulky’ Spaniard Jose Acero in Marbella. He signed off with a points win over Joe Beedon, but hasn’t fought since.

“I want this year to be a busy year and I’m hoping to be out again three weeks’ later in the Echo Arena in Liverpool on June 4,” he said.

“Paul Butler, Ryan Farrag and Jazza Dickens are on it so far. This time next year, I want to have a belt around my waist. I’ll be moving up the rounds and stepping up the opponents - hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll have my first title. I don’t care what it is - Irish, British, Commonwealth… I don’t really mind, whatever I’m offered I’ll take it.

“I feel like I’m ready to move on and step up. I’m still an apprentice, I’m still learning my trade, every day I’m learning, but I’m at that point where I should be fighting people with 50-50 records, durable journeymen. From what I’ve been doing in the gym, I know I’m ready for it.

“If you stay at this level and you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you’re not progressing or learning anything. You want to move on, you want the money coming in and you want the rounds and the titles. That’s what motivates you.”


THEY don’t get along, they’ve already got it on and now Chris Eubank jnr wants another crack at bitter rival Billy Joe Saunders.

Saunders beat Eubank jnr in 2014 and dethroned Andy Lee to become WBO middleweight champion in December. He was ringside for Eubank’s brutal stoppage win over Nick Blackwell recently and Eubank gestured to him during the fight, which ended with Blackwell rushed to hospital with a bleed on his brain. He was later put into an induced coma and was expected to be woken on Monday.

“I am biting at the bit to get back into the ring with that man, especially now he has a world title,” said 26-year-old Eubank jnr.

“Before that, I just wanted my revenge. I want to put a loss on his record like he did to me, he has a win over me, which I feel he does not deserve, that he did not truly earn and I want to right that wrong. Now that he has a world title, it brings a new layer to the situation.

“That is definitely a fight we are going to have to try and make as soon as possible, not just for my sake but the public as well. People are demanding this fight happens, everyone wants to see it, so I am sure we can get it done within the next six months or so.

“If you watch the [Blackwell] fight, in the middle of combinations I am actually turning round and talking to [Saunders] and Tyson Fury, I am calling him out, that is how much I want to get this guy back in the ring.”

Eubank jnr achieved something his 49-year-old father Chris senior never did by winning the British title, but he insists he has no intention of allowing himself to become satisfied at doing so and that his next opponent is likely to be revealed in the coming weeks.

”This is not like ‘Okay, now I am British champion I can ease off the brakes and take it easy because I’ve won this fight',” he said.

“If anything, I need to work harder now because I am the British champion and I need to uphold this title and that is exactly what I’m going to do. Obviously, my main goal is to work towards a world-title shot, but in the meantime if, for whatever reason, things don’t happen as quickly as I want them to, which is always a possibility, if that happens, then yes I will definitely defend my [British] title.

“We will know within the next weeks exactly what route we are going to take.”



MANNY PACQUIAO climbs into the ring for probably his final against Timothy Bradley on Saturday night.

Eight-division world champion Pacquiao is back in the ring for the first time since his blockbuster showdown with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather last May. Five-time world champion Bradley is coming off an impressive ninth-round stoppage over the tough and durable Brandon Rios and will be looking to avenge his only defeat to date when he takes on Pacquiao.

The pair clash for the third time when they will look to settle an old score, with both fighters sharing a win apiece from their previous meetings in 2012 and '14. The fight, live on Premier Sports, will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas: “He has my full attention. I dedicate this fight to my fans and to my countrymen throughout the world who have kept me in their prayers. And as always, I fight to bring glory to the Philippines,” said Pacquiao.

“I have always dedicated myself to who I am on fight night. However, on April 9 I will not only have dedicated myself to that but also delivering the performance that everyone has long awaited.”


CALLUM SMITH needed less than two minutes to claim a stunning victory over Hadillah Mohoumadi and win the European super-middleweight title at Liverpool's Echo Arena.

Frenchman Mohoumadi came out swinging, but Smith responded in emphatic fashion and, after pinning his opponent to the ropes in a barrage of punches, the referee called a halt to proceedings.

The fight lasted just one minute and 41 seconds, a result that leaves the highly-rated Smith with a perfect record of 19 wins from 19 bouts as well as the chance of a WBC world title fight.

The 25-year-old Liverpudlian, who beat Rocky Fielding with a first-round knock-out to win the British title in November, said: “I’ve always claimed I’m not a big puncher, but my record suggests different now and I do believe that, when I get in the changing room and get the gloves on, I can hurt anyone in the word.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn added of Smith: “The man's going to dominate the super middleweight division for years to come. He’s a scary, scary man.”


JAMIE McDONNELL will make the fourth defence of his WBA world bantamweight crown against former IBF super-flyweight champion Juan Alberto Rosas at the O2 in London on Saturday night.

The 30-year-old is coming off a pair of decision victories over the highly-rated Tomoki Kameda in the US last year and will fight for the first time on home soil since beating Javier Nicolas Chacon in his first defence in November 2014.

McDonnell, who captured the vacant strap with a stoppage win over Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat two years ago, knows he will have to be at his best against his Mexican opponent in a bout that will be on the undercard to Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title fight against Charles Martin.

“I have had a full-camp, I have been in the gym for 20 weeks and I have known for the last eight weeks that I would be on this show, so we have been training towards April 9 for a while,” said McDonnell.

“Rosas has won world titles before. He will bring a lot to the table. He is only 31, so he will still be hungry and he will want it. I hope we can put on a great fight and I am 100 per cent confident that I can beat him.”


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