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Milan Melindo will face Hekkie Budler in first 108-pound title defense

Photo credit: Naoki Fukuda

MANILA, Philippines – IBF junior flyweight titleholder Milan Melindo will make his first defense at home as he gets set to face Hekkie Budler on September 16 at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City, Philippines.

The fight will serve as the in-ring homecoming of Melindo (36-2, 13 knockouts) after he traveled to Japan to shock Akira Yaegashi, scoring three knockdowns in the first round in May, to win the title. Melindo made good in his third attempt at a major strap and is now THE RING Magazine’s No. 4-rated fighter at 108 pounds, five spots ahead of Budler.

The fight was announced on Thursday at a press conference attended by Melindo, his promoter Michael Aldeguer and trainer Edito Villamor.

“No matter how many fights (Budler)’s had, he’s never fought anyone like me. I…advise him not to put his guard down because then I might give him the first KO defeat of his career,” said Melindo in a statement.

“I already fought some of the best world champions in the world, including Juan Francisco Estrada, so he is no threat to me. I have a lot of confidence because God is with me. We’re gonna fight in my territory, where I will run the show and I promise an impressive win.”

Budler (31-2, 10 KOs) of Johannesburg, South Africa is a former WBA strawweight titleholder, having held the title from 2014 to 2016 before losing it in a close decision to Byron Rojas. His biggest wins came against Chao Zhong Xiong, Nkosinathi Joyi and Florante Condes.

“Melindo is a very good fighter, probably the best opponent I will have faced. Going on the road doesn’t faze me. I’ll fight anywhere,” said Budler. “I’m sure the Filipinos will watch my fights; they’re all over YouTube. But I’ll change up a few things and do what I’m best at.”

(READ: Hekkie Budler: A ‘very good’ champion who dares to be great)

Budler’s promoter Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions calls Melindo “a huge mountain to climb in the Phillipines,” but says the matchup “will be a credit to boxing.”

Joey Canoy, a Filipino boxer whom Budler stopped after eight rounds in his most recent fight, predicts Melindo will defeat Budler in decisive fashion.

“I’m not sure if Budler will go the distance,” Canoy tells RingTV.

Both fighters are 29 years old. The fight will headline the “Pinoy Pride 42” card promoted by ALA. The co-main event has yet to be determined, says ALA President Michael Aldeguer. 

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