Hekkie Budler to face Milan Melindo for 108-pound title on Saturday
Hekkie Budler will travel from South Africa to the Philippines to challenge Milan Melindo for the IBF junior flyweight title on Saturday at the opulent Waterfront Hotel and Casino, Cebu City.
Melindo (36-2, 13 knockouts) will make the first defense of the title he won last May, when he shocked Akira Yaegashi in Japan, stopping the veteran three-division titlist in one round.
Budler (31-2, 10 KOs) is looking to bounce back to world level, having made four successful defenses of his WBA strawweight crown before surprisingly losing it to Byron Rojas, 18 months ago.
“It’s hard to lose but with every loss comes lessons and I have learned a lot from that fight,” Budler told RingTV.com. “Once you hit bottom, there is only one way and that’s to move on and up.”
Since the loss, he’s re-calibrated with two wins, three pounds north at 108, and is keen to test himself in a bid to become a two-division world titleholder.
“I’m really looking forward to the fight,” said the 29-year-old from Johannesburg. “It is a great opportunity to be fighting for such a great title and I’m really blessed.
“(Melindo) is going to be a tough opponent. He is a very talented boxer. This is going to be a tough fight but I’m ready for the challenge. He is experienced and hits very hard but we have a few game plans.”
Budler has fought in several countries, including America, Canada, as well as a three-fight stint in the salubrious Monte Carlo.
He acknowledges that fighting so far from home is far from ideal but readily accepts that it’s par for the course, “It’s always tough to fight in some else’s backyard but I’ll fight anywhere in order to further my boxing career.”
Budler has prepared for the popular ALA Promotions series dubbed “Pinoy Pride 42,” as usual under the watchful eye of his longtime manager/trainer Colin Nathan at the Hot Box Gym, in Johannesburg.
He had been preparing to fight on August 19 in South Africa but when the opportunity came to fight Melindo for the IBF crown, it was too good to pass up.
“The Hexecutioner” has had a 10-week camp, benefiting from expert sparring with bright strawweight prospect Deejay Kriel, one-time opponent Simphiwe Khonco and ageless former IBF flyweight king Moruti Mthalane.
In his most recent fight, Budler won the IBO junior flyweight title. Although the IBO isn’t considered among the main sanctioning bodies, it has cache in South Africa.
It would have been easy for him to remain at home and ratchet up defenses but, to his immense credit, Budler wanted to leave the home comforts in search of greater glory.
“Thing is, Hekkie started his career in this division, then we dropped him down to strawweight, where he dominated, to be regarded, at the time, as the No. 1 fighter in that division,” explained the venerable Nathan. “Moving back up to the junior flyweight division, we felt that it was the perfect moment to go for this kind of fight, as we regard Melindo as one of the best fighters in the division.
“A classic thing of wanting to be the best, you have to fight and beat the best. Also, this is the ultimate challenge for Hekkie. It doesn’t get bigger than challenging a world champion in his own backyard. A win will cement his boxing legacy in South African boxing.”
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