Hekkie Budler and Moruti Mthalane set to rewrite the SA boxing history books
The South African boxing history books will be rewritten when two local world champions defend their titles in a foreign country on the same bill at Wynn Palace in Cotai‚ Macau‚ on New Year’s Eve.
Hekkie "Hexecutioner" Budler will put his Ring Magazine and WBA junior flyweight titles on the line against 24-year-old former straw weight holder Hiroto Kyoguchi‚ while Moruti "Baby Face" Mthalane will bid for the first defence of his IBF flyweight belt against Masahiro Sakamoto.
It will be the first time two South African world champions share a bill since Brian Mitchell chalked up the 11th defence of his WBA junior lightweight title against Frankie Mitchell‚ and Welcome Ncita registered the second defence of his IBF junior featherweight with a third-round knockout of Gerardo Lopez in Italy in September 1990.
Budler - a former IBO and WBA Super mini flyweight titlist - is ready to turn the page to the next chapter of his career when he faces his fast-rising Japanese opponent.
Kyoguchi - who is rated No. 4 by the IBF in the junior flyweight class - has 11 fights. The 30-year-old Budler has 32 wins in 35 fights.
The South African told the Ring Magazine that he expects Kyoguchi to be as tricky as Ryoichi Taguchi‚ the long-reigning champion he upset in Japan to claim the Ring/IBF/WBA junior flyweight titles by a razor-thin unanimous decision in May.
"I think it’s going to be a hard fight‚ interesting fight‚" Budler said.
"(Kyoguchi)’s undefeated‚ young and up-and-coming guy.
"He hits hard‚ extremely hard for the weight. He’s very fast; he’s got very good movement in and out. He’s very physically strong‚ ’cause he always comes forward.
"I’ve been training hard. I’ll be ready for whatever he brings‚ whatever he throws at me. I believe in hard training‚ you can beat anybody. We prepared right and I have the right people around me."
Budler became only the second South African in history to win The Ring Magazine title‚ joining bantamweight holder Vic Toweel.
But the boxer from Newlands‚ in the south of Johannesburg‚ was forced to vacate the IBF strap when he received a paltry offer to defend his belt.
Mthalane's opponent‚ Sakamoto (27)‚ has nine knockouts in 13 wins against a loss and is rated No.15 by the IBF in the flyweight division.
The 36-year-old Mthalane from Lindelani in Durban won his IBF flyweight belt belt in Kuala Lumpur where he outpointed Muhammad Waseem of Pakistan. That was Mthalane's 36th win in 38 fights.
Sakamoto is quoted saying by Ring Magazine: "I’ve been prepared to KO him.
"When I see my chance‚ my instincts tell me to finish it‚ and the accuracy of my punches improve."
On paper‚ Sakamoto is regarded as a heavy underdog.
Sakamoto told the magazine that Mthalane has strong defensive techniques and the mental strength to successfully operate his overall strategy.
"I don’t know what the champion thinks‚ but if he takes me lightly‚ then that’s fine‚" he said.
"I’ll upset him.
"I faced former WBO champion Sho Kimura so I’m not sure if [Mthalane] is even the most difficult opponent of my career.
"Even though it’s not my home country‚ it’s definitely a big help to hear people from Japan (at the fight).
"I’m grateful that Mthalane came here‚ near Japan.
"In Japan‚ many families watch TV on New Year’s Eve‚ so the boxing fights that air on that day naturally get attention. I respect that he defeated strong opponents and doesn’t show his age at 36 years old.
"However‚ I’ll be the one who welcomes the new year as champion."
Both Budler and Mthalane are under the guidance of successful trainer Colin Nathan‚ whose name has become synonymous with history- making boxing matches.
Nathan told TimesLIVE that all is well in Macau and the weather has been good with temperatures cool to warm.
"Although I have been told that it will get colder‚ the weights are good‚" he said.
"My guys are over their jet lag.
"I am expecting two tough fights with both Japanese bringing it to both our world champions.
"Moruti needs to stay tight and box solidly behind his ramrod jab‚ and Heklkie has to bring in angles. If both are on form‚ they will come through with good solid wins. We are ready."
* The fights from Macau will be shown live on December 31 on SuperSport 209 from 9:30am (South African time).
Budler fights at 10am and Mthalane takes to the ring at 11am (both South African Time).