Reigning IBO junior-flyweight champion Hekkie “Hexecutioner” Budler departed on Tuesday en route to the Philippines where he will engage in a crucial unification clash on September 16.
Budler, who built his boxing reputation by beating Eastern Cape boxers, will risk his IBO crown against Filipino Milan Melindo’s IBF in one of the few unification fights involving an SA boxer.
The diminutive boxer commands respect in the lighter divisions in the world due to his wins over Mdantsane’s Nkosinathi Joyi, Simpiwe Konkco of Mthatha and Duncan Village’s Siyabonga Siyo to earn the nickname “Hexecutioner”.
However, the fight against Melindo will give him the toughest challenge of his professional career of 33 bouts with just two losses.
Budler was expected to land in Philippines yesterday and start promoting the fight.
Having shaped his career with bouts against local opposition, starting at the amateur ranks, where battles against current WBO bantamweight champion Zolani Tete are documented, Budler later beat Sibusi Twani, Dalisizwe Komani and Luyanda Kwankwa as a professional.
There were threats to withdraw Budler from the unification clash after Filipino promoters negotiated terms that were not satisfactory for the SA camp.
These included lodging, for which they pay only for two people, although Budler’s trainer, Colin Nathan, and assistants Vusi Mtolo and Benny Peilman would join him.
But on Monday Nathan said everything had been sorted out and Budler was looking ahead to adding the IBF title to his world title collection.
“Yes, we are happy with the arrangement now and we are hoping that the judges will officiate the fight fairly,” he said.
The organisers have appointed neutral judges in order to leave no boxer feeling aggrieved.
Budler has already held the WBA super title in the mini-flyweight but lost it in a mild upset against unheralded Nicaraguan Bryon Rojas.
The defeat forced him to move to the junior-flyweight to go after the IBO title he first won as a professional but later lost it to Gideon Buthelezi in controversial circumstances.
Interestingly he regained the IBO junior-flyweight belt when he beat another Filipino Joey Canoy, stopping him within the distance to register 100% wins against Filipino opposition.
Nathan described the fight as the toughest for Budler, as he would be fighting in the Philippines for the first time.
“We do not even know how the environment will be like but Hekkie has fought abroad before so this will not be new for him.”
Indeed Budler has fought as far afield as Monaco and the US, with impressive results.
He beat the tough Mexican Jesus Silvestre, Thai Vicha Phulaikaw and Chinese Chao Zhong Xiong in Monte Carlo, Monaco, while he also got a decision win over Evaristo Primero in the US.
Budler is scheduled to attend the press conference of the fight in Cebu today will then go on press tours while acclimatising for a week before the fight.