By Ron Jackson
Hekkie Budler makes the fifth defense of his IBO strawweight belt and the first defense of his WBA minimumweight belt when he meets Karluis Diaz from Colombia at Emperors Palace near Kempton Park on Saturday night. Budler won the interim WBA belt on November 9 last year with an impressive fourth round stoppage win over Hugo Hernan Verchelli from Argentina. When Riyo Miyazaki relinquished the WBA minimumweight belt on December 27 2013 after deciding to move up a division, Budler was elevated to full WBA champion on January 8 this year.
In the strange world of boxing organizations these days the IBO name the division strawweight and the WBA minimumweight even though the limit for both organizations is 47,63kg. Another anomaly is that Diaz is ranked at number four by the WBA and only at number nine by the IBO.
The 25-year-old Budler had a successful amateur career, winning the South African light flyweight championship in 2005 before joining the professional ranks in July of that year.
He captured the vacant IBO junior flyweight belt on February 27 2010 with a 12 round points victory over Filipino Juanito Rubillar. After making two successful defenses he lost the IBO belt to fellow countryman Gideon Buthelezi in January 2011 to suffer his only defeat in 25 fights. He has won 7 inside the distance. He then decided to drop down to the strawweight division and on September 24 2011 won the vacant IBO belt with a points decision over Michael Landero of the Philippines. After making successful defenses against Florante Condes and Renan Trongco he upset the highly rated Nkosinathi Joyi in June last year, winning a close decision.
Diaz, 26, who birth name is Karluis Diaz Perez has a record of 21-4; 14 and has been fighting as a pro for five years.
He lost three of is first 16 fights inside the distance before meeting up with the capable Alberto Rossel in August 2012 for the interim WBA light flyweight belt and was outpointed over 12 rounds. Since that loss he has scored four victories which included a split decision win over Gabriel Mendoza for the WBA Fedelatin minimumweight title. However none of these fighters can be considered world beaters.
Colin Nathan who trains Budler at his Hotbox gym in the north of Johannesburg has seen videos of the challenger and even though he is a hard hitting come forward fighter, he is confident the maturing and super fit Budler will have enough to take the decision.
The fight referee will be Steve Smoger of the USA and the judges are Jose Roberto Torres (Puerto Rico), Philippe Verbeke (Belguim) and Dave Parris (UK).
On the undercard South African light heavyweight champion Johnny Muller meets Wilbeforce Shihepo from Namibia for the WBC Silver International light heavyweight title over 12 rounds and in another light heavyweight clash Ryno Liebenberg goes in against Joey Vegas of Uganda for the WBC Gold International light heavyweight belt also over 12 rounds.
The tournament is presented by Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions.