By Charlie Mullan
AS Olympic silver medalist Amir Khan contemplates turning pro, a Ballyvoy boxer will be reflecting that it could so easily be him!
Martin Butler was Ireland’s best boxer from the age of 11 and when he walked away from the sport three years ago, he was ranked No1 in Europe and No2 in the World.
It wasn’t that long ago that he stopped British puncher Khan in the second round of a fight organised by Beau McMullan.
The founder of Scorpion Boxing Club, regarded as one of the best amateur boxing club’s in Ireland, believes he still has a lot to offer the sport.
"If Martin pulled the gloves back on, he could be the best boxer in Ireland," McMullan told Times Sport. "After three months of training, nobody in junior boxing would touch him.
"He stopped Khan in the second round five years ago and if the two were to fight again, Butler would take his head off him!
"Khan wouldn’t lace Butler’s boots. Not many boxers went the distance against Martin. I remember a fight a few years ago between Martin and a Dublin boxer. Both had won three Irish titles. Martin had boxed beforehand to reach the final. The Dublin boxer knocked his opponent out and he lent over the ropes and said to Martin he was next. That was the worst thing he could have done.
"Martin knocked him on his back side and I swear it took about 15 minutes to get the other guy back on his stool. In his first year, he won five gold medals – three Open titles and two Novice titles. That’s more than Barry McGuigan and Dave Boy McAuley in their first years.
"He then went on to win a total of FIFTEEN gold medals, before walking away from the sport unbeaten!"
Beau’s praise of Martin should be respected. After all, he’s been in involved in boxing for over 30 years and has seen his fair share of champion boxers. But how far does he think Butler could have gone?
"I think he would have gone right to the top," said McMullan. "There was no-one to stop him going to the last Olympics. He was that highly rated. He was breaking records all the time. It broke my heart when he walked away from the sport. He could have made a lot of money from boxing.
"No-one beat him at international level or representative level. Not even Khan. Khan’s a good boxer but he’s nowhere near as good as Butler was. If Khan was a big hitter I’d encourage him to go professional. But he’s not a big hitter and he should stay amateur until after the next Olympics and develop more into a semi-pro boxer.
"Amateur boxing is all about head shots, while in the pro game, you have to get used to body blows right from the start.
"Martin had the right ingredients to do well. He’s was an all round sportsman. Not once did I ever hear him disrespect an opponent before, during or after a fight. He was a nice lad back lad."
Amir Khan will fight Mario Kindelan, the Cuban who ended his Olympic gold medal dream, before joining Frank Warren’s professional camp. The Olympic final rematch could now take place in May or June, after April 30’s date proved difficult to fit into Kindelan’s busy schedule.
Meanwhile, Beau has handed over to Alan Martin at the Scorpion Boxing Club but he hopes to see his young prodigy back in the ring some day soon.
"I think he’s wasting him time. He’s got it all. He could easily come back and be the best in Ireland. There’s a saying in this game that you never lose the dig. That’s true in Martin’s case."