By Anson Wainwright
South African Hekkie Budler is a man on a mission to prove he’s the best strawweight in the world.
Since outpointing his more celebrated countryman Nkosinathi Joyi last year he’s continued his assent to the top of the division winning the WBA title earlier this year.
His first defense was against Pigmy Kokietgym, in Monte Carlo. “The Hexecutioner” dominated the bout, dropping the Thai challenger three times along the way to an eighth round KO.
“I thought I boxed a smart intelligent fight,” Budler told BoxingScene.com. “I followed the game plan Colin set out for me and I thought it worked out well."
Budler’s long time trainer Colin Nathan was also impressed by his fighter’s recent performance.
“I thought Hekkie fought a brilliant fight,” said Nathan. “He followed my game plan perfectly and listened to me all the time when I gave instructions in the corner."
Budler and Nathan clearly work well together, the trust is evident and a big reason for the stoppage.
The assassin like Budler carried out the hit ordered by Nathan.
“Pigmy was a good fighter and could take a good head shot,” said Budler. “So after the sixth round Colin told me to switch my attack to his body and when I dropped him for the second time near the end of the seventh round, it was pretty much over."
“When I asked him to go downstairs as I thought Pigmy could take a good shot to the chin it was pretty much all over,” agreed Nathan “He made a hard fight look easy with his performance.”
Over the past couple of years Budler has improved greatly, Nathan believes that the 26-year old can continue his progression.
“I still don't think that we have seen the best of Hekkie Budler,” he said. “I still think he has so much more to offer. He keeps getting better.
“I think he is slowly getting into his peak. I still don't think he has reached his full potential. In time though, he will.”
The journey from South Africa to Monte Carlo isn’t a short one for Budler and his team.
“We flew from Johannesburg to Dubai and then caught a flight from Dubai to Nice and had a shuttle pick us up from the airport in Nice and drove us to Monte Carlo.” said Budler.
Clearly fighting at the salubrious Casino de Monte Carlo Salle Medecin, in Monte Carlo, Monaco agrees with Budler.
“I loved my time in Monte Carlo,” he said. “To be fair I spent a lot of time in my hotel room before the fight as I needed to get into the zone. But when I did go out and walk around a bit with Colin and found the people really warm and friendly to me.
"We stayed at the Novetal Monte Carlo which was really nice. I went to the beach to go for a swim the morning after my fight as I didn't go into the sun much before my fight.”
For now the Johannesburg resident is enjoying time away from the rigours of boxing before getting back into the gym he estimates in mid August.
“Colin wants me to take a rest from boxing for a month,” commented Budler. “I'll be back in at his Hot Box Boxing gym probably mid August.
“In between that time and now, I will be staying in decent shape by running and going to a regular gym.”
Currently the self proclaimed gym-rat is living the normal life relaxing with family. Though admits to missing the gym.
“Boxing is my life and I do miss the training camps, but as Colin rightly says, he doesn't want me to suffer from "burn out" and is important to rest and get my mind off boxing for a bit between camps and fights.”
Budler will be an interested observer Saturday, when IBF strawweight champion Katsunari Takayama and WBO boss Francisco Rodriguez Jr. meet in an intriguing looking unification in Mexico.
“I think it's a fight that can go either way.” said Budler when asked how he sees’s the fight going.
Though he couldn’t mask his disappointment that it’s not him taking part in a unification.
“I have to say that I am terribly disappointed in Takayama,” said Budler. “He initially in-boxed me on Facebook asking to fight me.
“I said yes we could get it on. I know my promoter Golden Gloves made him a huge offer to fight in a unification in Monte Carlo. The next thing we found out was that he was fighting against the WBO champion.”
It remains early days but Budler would say that there is a strong possibility that he’ll be heading back the opulence of Monte Carlo to fight on October 25.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright