Melton boxer Paul Butlin calls time on 14-year pro career
In the end it was one unlucky punch which persuaded Paul Butlin to call time on his 14-year professional career.
Even on the fateful night itself, at the age of 40, he had been on the cusp of one of his best wins.
For the third contest running, Butlin stepped into the ring to face a young, up-and-coming heavyweight with an unblemished record.
Testing himself against an experienced pro after nine straight wins, Kash Ali looked on the brink until fate handed the Melton boxer a hefty hint.
“There was only three seconds to go and he caught me on the top of the head and put me out,” Butlin said.
“It laid me out for 30 seconds and that had never happened to me before.
“It was either bad luck or someone was telling me to pack it in.”
For the first time in a 41-bout career, Butlin had suffered two successive knockouts, following his KO against rising star Christian Lewandowski, in Germany, last March.
Thoughts turned to his three children and wife at home, and his wider family. There was also a prized new job.
Suddenly the cloud of dilemma cleared; this would be his last competitive fight.
“I haven’t been bashed over too much in my career, but this just brought it home,” he added.
“It takes just one decent shot and it could be game over for me.”
After three years of taking on his own training, as well as running a gym and holding down another job, the plug was finally pulled on years of built-up stress.
“I’m really happy now,” he added. “I feel like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
“It is always in the back of your mind, panicking ‘have I got a fight coming up’.
“It’s been a while coming. Running the gym wasn’t a concern, it was more to do with the fitness, and I look at my kids and they are only young.”
Critics - and there are plenty of those around the ultra competitive boxing circuit - may point to a record that has 16 wins and a draw.
But a look at the quality of opponents he was willing to face, many at short notice, tells a different story.
Butlin was given the glitzy big fight treatment at the first Prizefighter competition in 2011 - the Barry Hearn revolution broadcast live on Sky Sports.
He also fought in front of 61,000 against former world champion Johnathon Banks in 2009, on the same bill as a Wladimir Klitschko world title fight.
It was one of Butlin’s nine bouts on the Continent spanning six European countries.
But one of the proudest moments came in 2013 when he became the second professional opponent of future world champion Anthony Joshua.
Despite a second round knockout, the Melton fighter earned plenty of plaudits from a big TV audience for a gutsy performance.
And in May 2014, Butlin finally had the tangible proof of success he craved when he won the Midlands Area belt, under the guidance of his good friend Carl Greaves.
He said: “Prizefighter was probably my proudest achievement because it was the first one; it was new.
“Going from small hall shows to that gave me the insight to go abroad and fight.
“Looking back I’m happy with my career, but I think I had a lot more to offer if I had the right manager and trainers earlier on.
“I was training myself for the last three years and still holding my own.”
There were also highly publicised moments not so welcome; having his ear bitten in the first of two bad tempered bouts with Dereck Chisora.
And in February this year, Butlin was a terrified bystander at the Regency Hotel shootings in Dublin, fleeing from gunmen at a pre-fight weigh-in which left a man dead and two seriously injured.
But despite the misfortunes and disappointments, Butlin knows he will not replace the colour, the characters and the show.
“I will miss the people around the boxing scene, going to the shows and chatting to people,” he said.
“There are a lot of good people in boxing.
“I will keep in touch with Carl and will continue training others and training myself.
“I didn’t start until I was 24 so I know others things outside boxing. I started late and I finished late.”