By Alexey Sukachev
For twenty-five years since being created,g the strawweight division has been slowly winning a small share of admirers but mostly in Asia and in Latin America. Fighters from other parts of the world, specifically of Caucasian origin, were very rare among the elite; just two of them – Scotsman David Weir and Spaniard Jorge Mata – having been able to capture a part of the world title. Both reached their career-high results and acquired vacant WBO 105lb titles during “The European Exile” of the World Boxing Organization, when most of its champions were either Europeans or were based in Europe. Both reigned for a very short time, making just a couple of defenses of their titles conjointly before losing them to a better opposition.
Now, a talented newcomer can become the third in line and maybe even surpass his predecessors. Hekkie Budler, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, is only 24 but he has already captured an IBO belt, which he hopes is just a step up to getting recognition as the true champion of the world. Budler, nicknamed Hexecutioner, had been considered a future star even before he turned pro in 2007 as a light flyweight. For the first two and a half years he had been fighting non-descript opposition, and then – he made a quantum leap up in class and scored two narrow decisions over world-class veteran and multi-time major title challenger Juanito Rubillar (48-13-7) in consecutive contests to capture and retain the IBO 108lb regalia.
A bitter defeat from fellow compatriot Gideon Buthelesi (11-2) followed in early 2011, and Hector chose to move further in weight… down. A move turned to be a blessing for the young South African when he dominated tough Filipino Michael Landero (15-4-4) to a lopsided decision and won a vacant IBO title, this time in the lightest division in prizefighting.
Another step up can be made this coming Saturday, when Budler (20-1, 6 KOs) takes on his best opponent so far, the hard-hitting and granite-chinned former IBF minimumweight champion Florante Condes (25-6-1, 21 KOs and no KO/TKO losses) in the first defense of his title. Days before the fight, which will be held at Emperor’s Palace at Kempton Park, just near his home, BoxingScene caught up with Budler to know more about his past, his present and his future.
PART I. THE UPCOMING FIGHT
- Hekkie, you are fighting this coming Saturday against a very experienced fighter, a former world champion Florante Condes of Philippines. Have you seen his tapes? What can you say about him? Can you name his primary strengths and weaknesses?
- Yes, I have seen of his tapes, he is a strong come-forward fighter and he is a southpaw. He banks on his left hand a lot, and he hits extremely hard.
- Tell us about your camp and about your team. Where have you trained for the fight? Who is your coach? Whom have you been sparring with?
- I train at the Hotbox gym in Glenhazel, and Hotbox team is filled with energy and that motivates us. Collin Nathan and Vusi (not sure how to spell his surname) both have groomed me into becoming an international boxer. They are definitely just as dedicated to this upcoming fight as I am. I have sparred with two of my stable-mates Ashley and Xholani who are both much heavier than what I am.
- Condes is a southpaw, and he is a puncher. How will it affect your tactics for the upcoming fight? Who was the biggest hitter you have ever faced in your boxing career?
- My last fight was also against a southpaw, and I have faced many southpaws since my amateur days. With respect to my tactics, we have worked on a few game plans but I don't want to give away all of my secrets (smiles). A fighter from Thailand that I fought in amateurs, but his name has slipped my mind.
- Condes also hasn’t fought for well over a year. Will his ring rust make a significant impact in the contest?
- It depends on the type of sparring he gets; if he had hard sparring I doubt that there will be much rust.
- The fight will be conducted in your hometown. Will there be any additional pressure. How will you combat it?
- As a fighter you get use to the hometown pressure and start enjoying it because it pushes you to be your best.
- Give us your prediction for the fight?
- It is important to stay positive – then half of the battle is already won, so obviously I think I am going to win because I have trained hard and that gives me the confidence.
PART II. CAREER
- You have started your pro career at an early age of 19. When did you start boxing after all? Why have you chosen boxing?
- I started boxing when I was eight years old, and the main reason was to do a sport where if I lose I am the only one to blame, because I really hated losing when I was younger. With boxing it showed me that hard work and the effort you put in is important.
- What were your achievements in the unpaid ranks?
- Well, I had over 150 amateur fights and of those I only lost 10 fights. I also won an SA title at 17 (senior SA title).
- You started your career as a puncher, stopping three opponents in the row. But after that you have notched just 3 stoppages in 18 fights. Can you name yourself a puncher or not?
- I’ve trained myself to focus more on speed and less on power punches but when I feel the moment is right I will make use of it.
- Between 2009 and 2010 you made a quantum leap up in class and went from a local prospect to a worldwide little attraction. Was it a difficult transition or not?
- Yes, it was very difficult it was my 15th fight and my opponent Rubillar had 70 fights under his belt.
- Who was the strongest opponent in your professional career – Buthelesi, Landero, Rubillar?
- Definitely, Rubillar.
- Tell us more about your biggest win.
- My biggest win was my rematch with Rubillar because everyone expected me to lose (Budler won on a split nod – 116-111, 115-113 and 113-114).
- In 2010-2011 you have been involved in several controversial fights (SD and MD over Rubillar, SD over Evaristo Primero and SD loss to Gideon Buthelesi). Do you think that you won these fights fair and square? Do you feel yourself robbed against Buthelesi?
- I definitely won those fights fair and square and I watched the tapes over and over again. No, I was not robbed against Buthelesi. I boxed terrible that night.
- You fought in the States, Canada and in the RSA against Latinos (Mexicanos), Africans and Asians (Filipinos). What are the differences in their styles? Which school is close to yours, and which one is too hard to battle against?
- The boxers from Mexico and Asia are extremely tough and durable fighters whereas the Africans are lighter on their feet. I feel that the Mexican boxers are closer to my type of boxing style. Think that both the Asian and Mexican boxers are hard to battle against.
- Why have you decided to move down in weight from light flyweight to the minimumweight?
- I feel more comfortable and stronger at this weight. I feel that I should have boxed at this weight from the start of my career.
- Nkosinathi Joji has just lost to unheralded Mario Rodriguez in Mexico. What do you think about this bout? Whom do you want to fight most – the winner or Joji?
- I think that Joyi got stage fright, and the heat and fighting in another country got to him. I wouldn't mind fighting either one of these two boxers.
- You are ranked high by the WBC (#3), IBF (#5) and WBO (#13). Do you consider the IBO title to be just a mere step up before you will fight for major titles? Whom (of the champs) do you want to fight the most?
- The IBO has been very good to me and provided me with great opportunities and I am happy to continue to defend my IBO title. On the other hand, I would love to add major titles to my collection of belts, so only time and patients will determine what will be on the cards for me next. I would really like to fight the WBA champion Ioka.
PART III. MISCELLANEOUS
- The way you are answering me somehow shows me that English isn’t your native language (just as it’s not mine). Are you of the Boer origin?
- I am Afrikaans (smiles) think that is the best way to put it.
- Why have you chosen to fight under Rodney Berman rather than to fight under Branco Milenkovic?
- I think he provides his boxers with far greater opportunities and does what is best for them. That is the main reason that I fight under Rodney Berman rather than Branco Milenkovic.
- You are a very small fighter (please tell us your height), and you are Caucasian. How do you feel yourself competing domestically in a weight class, which is strongly dominated by Black South Africans?
- 1.6 meters. I feel that a boxer is a boxer and no matter, who fights or who dominates the weight class, the main thing that is important, is that there are fighters who are good at what they do and who will challenge me. If they deserve to be there, they will be.
- Tell us something about your family.
- I have a very close relationship with my family, and I am at home most of the time with them when I am not training. I wouldn’t want to change one thing about them because they support my career and love me unconditionally. Without my family I wouldn’t be the person I am today and where I am today. My dad is by far my biggest fan.
- What were the funniest and the ugliest moments of your boxing career?
- Funniest....hmm... must definitely be the amateur tours that we went on but I cannot elaborate more if you know what I mean… we were a naughty bunch (giggles). Ugliest moments... I think that some of the amateur scoring system is extremely unfair to the boxers these days and witnessed cases, where boxers have broken down in tears due to the fact.
- Tell us some words for your fans.
- Thank you for all the support wouldn't be boxing if it wasn't for you guys, God Bless!