Thursday, March 23, 2023  |


Former Ring champ Hekkie Budler returns Saturday in South Africa

Hekkie Budler and Simpiwe Koncko with trainer Colin Nathan. Photo by Droeks Malan

Former strawweight and junior flyweight world champion Hekkie Budler will make his long overdue return on Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa, when he takes on Filipino Jonathan Almacen at Booysens Hall.

Just getting in the ring has been a struggle for Budler, who will be looking to shake off more than two years worth of ring rust. His last fight was in December of 2018 when his corner pulled him out after the tenth round against Hiroto Kyoguchi in Macau, the TKO loss costing him his 108-pound belts.

He was scheduled to return in March of 2020 but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing the last-minute cancellation of the fight. In March of this year, another return was on the cards, but once again, luck was not on his side when his opponent came in way over the weight limit, forcing another cancellation at the eleventh hour.

With Almacen in the country and the pre-fight medical done, it seems that this time, it is finally happening. It will be a return to where it all started for Budler since the hall hosts the Booysens Amateur Boxing Club where he first laced up the gloves.

It may have been happy hunting grounds for the former champ, but the South African camp is leaving nothing to chance.

“He is a very strong, tough kid, better than his record suggests. He has decent fundamentals, but it is the kind of fight that Hekkie has to win. If we want to get some momentum going, we have to get past Almacen. I expect a tough fight but one Hekkie should win and obviously get the rounds going and get the ‘W,’” says trainer/manager, Colin Nathan.

The 32-4 with 10 knockouts Budler, who turned 33 this week, is not a spring chicken for a fighter in one of boxing’s smallest weight classes but Nathan believes that his charge has one more world title left in him. Do they have anyone specific in mind? “Shiro (WBC beltholder, Ken) is good for us. I also watched Takayama and Soto (WBO titlist, Elwin). I wasn’t too impressed with Soto. He is a big puncher, but he has holes in his game. He can be outboxed. You must remember that Takayama is 38 now and I thought he did really well in the fight.”

One thing is certain: A loss at this point in his career could be the end for Budler, whereas the 7-3-2 with two knockouts Almacen has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He has won his last two fights, both in 2019 and has some decent wins over Xiang Li and Roldan Sassan on his ledger. He has only been stopped once, being taken out in the first by then undefeated Robert Paradero, so a distance fight could be expected.

Another world class fighter who will be making his return on the card in the main supporting bout will be Ring number eight ranked strawweight, Simpiwe “Chain Reaction” Konkco. In his last fight in October of 2019, he made an unsuccessful bid for long reigning Wanheng Menayothin’s WBC title, dropping a 12-round decision in Thailand.

He will be facing 10-4-2 with 4 knockouts Hamidu Kwata from Tanzania over ten rounds. Kwata, is a late substitute for another Filpino, Ariston Aton, who tested positive for COVID19. Judging by his record, Kwata does not look like he will be able to trouble Konkco who has been in against a much higher class of opponent. The South African gave Budler all he could handle in his only other world title shot besides the Menayothin fight and he has solid wins over Toto Landero and Nkosinathi Joyi under his belt.

Nathan, who also manages and trains Konkco, cautions against complacency though. “Nothing is easy. I haven’t seen this kid fight but then again, we need to get him (Konkco) in the ring. Same story. We need to get some momentum going.”

Also on the card, another Nathan prodigy, national junior welterweight female champion, Hedda “The Shredder” Wolmarans, makes her return against Raider Muleba over eight two-minute rounds. She too will be looking to shake off some ring rust, not having fought since August 2019 when she stopped Nomadithini Ndyambo in two rounds to win the South African belt. Big things are expected of the 5-0 Wolmarans, who has three stoppages.

On the undercard, junior middleweight Tristan Truter, who has recently switched camps to Nathan’s Hotbox Gym, will be looking to return against Wandile Ndlela over six rounds. He is coming off the back of two consecutive stoppage losses in the [email protected] tournament and it will be interesting to see whether the trainer switch can breathe some life back into his career.

Gerald Titus takes on Itumeleng Tsholo in a six round featherweight bout and there is also a lightweight four rounder between Talent Baloyi and Eric Mayamba to start proceedings.

This is the maiden tournament of Uppercut Promotions of Cyril Lehong, a welcome addition to the South African fight scene.

The card will be streamed live on both Facebook and Youtube by SA Boxing Talk from 18:00 CAT on Saturday evening.