The first time I saw Steven Butler compete was in June of 2014.
It was the undercard of an Eye of the Tiger “Fight Club” presentation, held at the Pierre-Charbonneau Centre in Montreal. The card was headlined by recent world title challenger Dierry Jean taking on Mario Perez. It was Jean’s bounce back fight and everyone in attendance was curious to see how he’d look after a tough loss to Lamont Peterson five months before.
The eyes weren’t on Butler that night, or they weren’t meant to be. With Jean’s return and a variety of other prospects filling the card, he was but a passing thought for most. Only 2-0, he still had a lot to prove.
But by the end of the night, the takeaway for many was Butler’s name. Jean had done what he was meant to do in the main event, but people were blown away by the performance of Butler, only 18 at the time. Not only had he (yet again) dismantled an opponent in the first round, he did it with the kind of grace, talent and intelligence that boxing trainers dream about.
This time around, the eyes will be on Butler. The super welterweight is no longer a passing interest, but a full-fledged prospect waiting to break out. On Saturday, he co-headlines at the Hilton Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec where he’ll take on 12-8-1 Lukasz Janic of Poland. It will be Butler’s most competent opponent to date, one expected to push him like no opponent has before.
Now 9-0 as a pro with all nine fights having taken place in the last 10 months, Butler is progressing as those backing him would like, passing each progressively more difficult challenge with the patience and competency of a fighter on his way to super-stardom.
Considering Butler’s background, maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s emerged as one of Montreal’s more highly touted prospects. Butler’s grandfather, Marshall Butler, was a prominent Montreal fighter in the 1970’s, competing at the Montreal Forum and around the world. A slick puncher with impressive boxing skills, French papers dubbed him “Le Petite Cassius” and “Little Cassius,” after Cassius Clay.
“My grandfather has been an inspiration to me,” said Butler. “I started boxing when I was 12. They (my parents) were not thrilled at first since it’s a dangerous sport but now they got used to it.”
Butler wasn’t one of the good kids in school, struggling because of his short attention span and troublemaker attitude. He played basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey growing up, but it was boxing that inspired him and gave him purpose. By 15, he had spent three years with trainer Renald Boisvert and was taking the sport more seriously, and at 16 he dropped out of high school. It was boxing or it was nothing.
In his short time in the amateurs, Butler won Quebec championships and at 17 he captured a national title. It didn’t take a boxing guru to see Butler possessed the athletic abilities and natural instincts necessary to succeed in combat sports.
“It gave meaning to my life and made me who I am today,” Butler said. “I’m a much more mature person and I’m determined to be the best.”
It’s Butler’s maturity between the ropes that has always made him stand out. Even under pressure, he doesn’t appear rattled, and he has a calm, precise manner to his attacks. His patience is that of a veteran fighter, and he continues to show new skills with each bout.
Only 19, Butler’s determined to follow in the footsteps of other Quebec world champions like Eric Lucas. On January 31, the goal will be to continue his progression towards a title shot.
“I want to fight the best in my division and become the world champion,” Butler said. “I want to become a legend.”
One step at a time. — Shawn Smith