Newly crowned world junior-flyweight champion Hekkie Budler on top of the world
Newly crowned world junior-flyweight champion Hekkie Budler will probably have to make his first two defences in Japan‚ his trainer-manager Colin Nathan said on Sunday.
In arguably the biggest victory by a South African boxer since Vic Toweel won the undisputed world bantamweight crown in 1950‚ Budler narrowly outpointed Japan’s Ryoichi Taguchi in Tokyo on Sunday.
In a sport gone mad with alphabet titles‚ Taguchi was one of the few unified champions in boxing‚ holding the WBA and IBF crowns as well as the Ring magazine’s belt given to him as their champion of the world.
In terms of universal titles‚ this surely surpasses the stunning wins achieved by past greats like Brian Mitchell‚ Dingaan Thobela‚ Sugarboy Malinga and even Corrie Sanders.
No other SA boxer has held two major titles simultaneously.
But the victory means Budler will probably have to return to Japan for his next two bouts.
“We signed a two-fight option for the WBA title‚” Nathan said.
Option clauses are common in boxing‚ allowing the promoters to keep ownership of world titles after their champions have lost.
That could change‚ of course‚ if Budler were to relinquish the WBA belt‚ but Nathan gave no indication that this was a consideration.
“I’m happy to come back to Japan.”
Budler was treated fairly in this tight contest.
The three judges came from South Africa‚ Japan and the US‚ and they all scored it 114-113 for the diminutive fighter from Newlands in west Johannesburg.
But it wasn’t easy.
Budler survived a brief knockdown in the final 12th round — he was caught off balance when tagged by a left hook as he was pulling back — that was initially ruled a slip by the referee.
As the officials were tallying up the scores‚ they announced they were ruling it a knockdown‚ which could potentially result in a three-point swing.
“I knew I’d done enough to win the fight‚” Budler told TimesLIVE afterwards.
“But I got a bit stressed when I heard they were changing the slip to a knockdown.”
The memory of his previous outing last year‚ for the IBF title‚ was still fresh in his mind when poor refereeing possibly cost him a victory; at least it earned him the crack at Taguchi‚ who won the IBF belt a few months later.
“I was worried because I thought they were going to work me out of the win‚” added Budler.
He was all smiles as he spoke about the aches and pains and bruises on his face and body.
“They don’t feel as bad as I thought they would be‚" he said.
"Maybe I’ll feel them tomorrow.”
He’s confident he and wife Roxy will find space to display the three new belts in their home‚ alongside the three belts he’s held previously as the WBA and IBO strawweight champion and the IBO junior-flyweight titleholder.
“They also gave me two massive trophies. I’m not sure where we’re going to put them or how I’m going to travel home with them.”
What were the trophies for?
“I don’t know‚” he replied with a laugh.