Paul Butler looked set for a rare early night after dropping Willibaldo Garcia in the first round, but the former WBO bantamweight champion was taken the full ten rounds and endured some tough later rounds before picking up a split decision in Bolton.
Garcia was a late replacement for Joseph Agbeko, the WBO No 1 contender, who was unable to get a visa, but after being knocked down in the first, he kept coming at Butler, despite taking some heavy shots.
The Mexican was wild from the start and played right into Butler’s hands. Just two minutes in, the Mexican was on the floor, as Butler followed up a left to the body with a left to the jaw.
Garcia was not about to toll over, however, and kept bringing the fight to Butler, although he was being thoroughly outboxed.
In the mid-rounds, however, Butler’s output began to slow and he started sitting on the ropes. While Garcia was not landing cleanly, he was throwing plenty.
Enough, it seemed, to impress Howard Foster, who made Garcia a 95-94 winner. Michael Alexander had it 96-94 and Phil Edwards 97-92, both for Butler.
The vacant WBO international title was on the line. Butler, who is ranked No 3 by the WBO and No 4 by the IBF, extended his winning run to seven fights.
“They (the judges) have probably gone a bit on workrate, but if you look at that workrate, what gets through?” Butler said. “I’m catching a lot on arms and poking a couple through. I think he landed the head more than actual shots.
“I said when he replaced Agbeko that it was a tougher fight, maybe not skillwise, but he came and he brought it. We knew he was going to sit on my chest and did everything unorthodox. Half the time he didn’t know what he was throwing himself.
“I want to be world champion again. I have never gone into the ring as a world champion and that is something I want to do.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.