Butler vs. Cook in domestic battle for North American junior middleweight belts

Butler vs. Cook in domestic battle for North American junior middleweight belts

MONTREAL — Steven Butler says he doesn’t speak a lot of English, but he mustered enough to face Brandon Cook and say “I’m going to knock you out.”

That injected a needed dose of animosity into an otherwise amicable news conference Thursday to promote their light middleweight showdown.

Butler versus Cook sounds more like a dispute between domestics than the old-time Quebec-Ontario domestic dispute that is set for Saturday night at the Bell Centre. Only a 6,000-seat section of one end of the 21,000-seat arena will be used but promoter Camille Estephan expects to be at least close to a sellout, including 500 or more Cook fans from his hometown of Toronto.

Cook (17-0) sees himself as a blue-collar battler who has had to work for every victory and views Butler (18-0-1), of Montreal, as a coddled upstart who has built his record fighting “tomato cans.”

“He’s going to realize on Saturday night that when he can’t knock me out, he’s going to have to figure out something else because he’s going to get hit pretty hard,” said Cook (17-0). “He’s never going to be hit as hard as I’m going to hit him, so he’ll know he’s in a fight after that first couple of rounds.”

The 21-year-old Butler (18-0-1) is nine years younger than Cook and will have home ring advantage for a bout that will be a major setback for the loser but will put the winner into world title contention.

They are rated as Canada’s top two 154-pound boxers and each will put a North American title on the line — Butler’s from the IBF and Cook’s from the WBA.

“It’s two of the best guys around right now,” said Cook, who took the bout after plans for a title bout with WBA champion Erislandy Lara fell through. “I’m not afraid of anybody.

“They wanted the fight badly. I gave them the fight. I’m coming to their back yard to fight him. I put a lot of time and work in. They brought him up really easily. He fought a bunch of (weak) guys when he was coming up compared to me.”

Actually, three of Butler’s last five opponents were undefeated, but Cook has a point about having to keep a day job while the Montrealer enjoys being a full-time boxer.

Boxing is a popular sport in Quebec where promoters like Estephan’s Eye of the Tiger Management or Groupe Yvon Michel keep stables of full-time fighters. There are pro fight cards somewhere in the province nearly every week, with the best fights saved for the Bell Centre or the Centre Videotron in Quebec City.

Cook and his coach Mike Guyett work as installers at Pro tech Glass Windows and Doors Ltd. in West Hill, Ont. Most days, Cook trains at 5 a.m., works all day, then trains again at night. Luckily, his boss gave him seven unpaid weeks off to prepare for this bout.

“The thing is, you don’t go home until the job’s done so it’s hard to schedule stuff,” said Cook. “We never know when we’re getting off work, but we still make time for the gym.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do. To be in the main event at the Bell Centre is a dream come true. For me to beat him in the main event, in his home town, in the Bell Centre would be the icing on the cake.”

It’s big for Butler too. He is ranked eighth by the IBF. Estephan feels he is only two wins away from a world title shot.

“This is a world class fight, we’re both ranked in the top 10,” said Butler. “He’s a dangerous opponent, but I’m confident.

“I’m not dreaming. I know I will be a world champion within two years.”

Guyett is equally confident Cook can win.

“Brandon can be aggressive, come forward, bang the body and go upstairs as well, but I don’t like to put him in one style and say he’s a pressure fighter because I believe that versatility is the key to the game,” said Guyett. “I believe he can win this fight moving backwards or forwards.

“We’re prepared for whatever Butler brings. Brandon’s had his best camp ever. He’s in tip-top shape.”

The co-feature has Canadian Olympian Simon Kean (7-0) of Trois-Rivieres, Que. in a heavyweight bout with American Avery Gibson (8-5-4), who is 1-1-1 in three previous trips to Canada.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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