Byron Rojas celebrated as Nicaragua’s newest champion
On March 19, Byron Rojas surprised long-reigning WBA strawweight titleholder and consensus No. 1 105-pounder Hekkie Budler, out-hustling and unseating him by close unanimous decision.
“I am pleased that we had a game plan and we were able to execute,” Rojas 17-2-3 (8 knockouts) told RingTV.com through translator Paula Hernandez. “It was a tremendous life experience to be cherished.”
The 25-year-old traveled with his team of three people to South Africa nearly two weeks prior to the fight. It took 23¾ hours from Nicaragua, including a three-hour layover in Panama and another in Germany of eight hours, but said he was well taken care of once he reached his destination.
“I felt very comfortable,” said Rojas, who is also a third-year veterinarian student. “I was treated very well by the fans and the promoter throughout our time in South Africa.
“I felt very prepared for the fight. Our entire team had a game plan and that game plan revolved around being aggressive and not allowing [the] champion, Budler, time to think and react and use his own aggression.
“Our plan was to execute first and take him off of his timing by way of our own aggressiveness and continuing to respond by throwing punches and more punches than the champion Budler.”
Since the win, Rojas has received congratulatory messages from his countryman and current pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez.
Becoming world champion — the 11th from Nicaragua — will change his life drastically and he understands and embraces his new celebrity.
“Winning of course means a great deal and it allows me the opportunity of being a viable sporting figure in my country and hopefully externally to my country,” he said proudly. “I was very surprised and happy when we arrived at the airport as there were hundreds upon hundreds of people celebrating and there were buses and car horns honking.
“When I returned back home it was similar but much bigger with, again, hundreds upon hundreds of people meeting me upon my arrival with great celebration.”
Rojas promoter Marcelo Sanchez, whose company, Pinolero Promotions, recently promoted their 100th show, was understandably elated at his charge becoming world champion, as well as seeing the future opportunities it may bring to youngsters.
“Of course we were thrilled by the new champion Rojas’ win,” he said. “It brings validation to our entire team and program. It is a tremendous matter for the country of Nicaragua as well.
“One can envision some younger man or child now seeing the adulation that the champion Rojas is receiving from his countrymen, along with the dedication of the boxing, and wanting to follow in the footsteps of the Nicaraguan champion by way of the boxing ring.”
The company has grown quickly. Just a year ago they brought Michael Schmidt, Carlos Varela Jr. and public relation gurus Jensen Strauss Agency Ltd. on board with the hope of not just guiding their fighters to win national championships but also world title honors.
“The champion Rojas completely validates that vision and as I mentioned to Mr. Schmidt the other day this is like a peak or graduation, as we now have a world champion,” Sanchez said. “I believe that there are other young men on the verge of championships. Men such as Roman ‘Chocolatito‘ Gonzalez’s cousin, currently No. 5 ranked in the world (by the WBC), Cristofer Rosales Gonzales. This was our fourth title challenge this past year and this time we brought home the belts.”
While it remains early days for Rojas – who lives at home with his adoptive father and mother — Sanchez believes there are many options available.
“There is no rematch clause for Budler but of course we would certainly entertain a rematch and he is deserving of a rematch,” said Sanchez. “He is a grand champion and I must say that, unlike what we see in many sporting events today, he was a perfect sportsman when the decision was announced.
“It goes without saying that we would love to feature champion Rojas on a show in Nicaragua. Having said that, we are most certainly aware that the WBA is intent, by a mandate announced a few months ago, to reduce its beltholders in each division. The WBA interim is Thailand’s Knockout CP Freshmart. I believe that, style-wise, would be a tremendous fight and most certainly appear to be on the horizon. We would love to make that fight, ideally in Nicaragua, but would have no problem traveling to Thailand where the fans are tremendous.
“There is of course our countryman Carlos Buitrago, and I know Mr. Schmidt is very enthusiastic. In terms of a viable and visible other big Central American fight – Panama’s very talented Leroy Estrada. So there are various options but of course we will honor the championship and mandate of the WBA and the IBO. In the end result Byron is ready, willing, and able to fight anybody and one can see by his busy schedule of 22 fights since turning pro in August 2010 that he likes to stay active.”
One of the many great things about boxing is when a rank outsider comes from seemingly nowhere to shock a world champion and make a name for himself.
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