Hekkie Budler scored the best knockout victory of his career at Emperors Palace on Saturday night.
The South African, making the fifth defence of his IBO strawweight title and the first of his WBA minimumweight belt, knocked Karlius Diaz cold with a right hand in the first round. The fight ended 2 minutes and 59 seconds after the first bell.
Known for his buzz-saw style and lack of punching power, "The Hexecutioner" demolished the Colombian with the most sensational of his eight KO victories in a 26-fight career. He has lost only once.
Budler started at a blistering pace, pouring blows over the challenger. But after a minute or so it seemed Diaz had weathered the storm.
Then the crunching right came from over Budler's shoulder, landing on Diaz’s chin, and referee Steve Smoger of the United States completed the formalities.
Budler, the lightest South African to have won a “world” title, proved himself to be king of Emperors Palace, his favourite venue near Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg. His 21st bout at the Palace turned into a celebration.
Diaz, 26 years old, was fourth on the WBA rankings list but his professional record dropped to 21-5, with 14 wins inside the distance after a blow that he probably never saw coming.
Then, to put the cherry on the top, Ryno Liebenberg stopped Joey Vegas of Uganda in the first round of their fight for the WBC gold international light-heavyweight belt. The bout was over after 2 minutes 56 seconds.
The undefeated Liebenberg has now won 11 of his 15 professional bouts inside the distance. Vegas’s record dropped to 16-7-1, with 9 shortcut wins.
The 25-year-old Budler has been a crowd-pleasing fighter since he won the SA amateur light-flyweight title in 2005 before turning professional in July that year. His ratings at international level are likely to soar after his latest victory.
Colin Nathan, who trains Budler at his Hotbox gym in the north of Johannesburg, was over the moon, and rightly so. And promoter Rodney Berman, of Golden Gloves promotions, must have been equally impressed, also with Liebenberg's dynamic performance.