Hekkie Budler produced the fight of his life to beat Nkosinathi Joyi on a split decision on Saturday night.
Budler retained his IBO strawweight title by outscoring his fellow South African over twelve brilliant rounds at Emperors Palace east of Johannesburg.
Judge Arthur Ellensohn from Germany made Joyi a 116-112 winner but Reg Thomson of the UK had Budler 116-113 ahead and Tony Nyangiwe from South Africa scored it 115-113 for Budler.
Budler, seemingly borrowing a nickname from former SA cricket star Allan “White Lightnight” Donald for the night, used his hand speed and dazzling footwork to defeat the always threatening Joyi, a former IBO and IBF champion.
Setting himself up for title unification fight later this year, Budler took some serious punishment as he dashed in and out, throwing punches from all angles as Joyi tried to keep track of the moving target.
The more experienced southpaw found the target often enough with blows that seemed to slow Budler down after the seventh round.
But a grand-stand finish from the champion ensured that he kept his nose in front.
Joyi, bleeding from a cut near the right eye, was cautioned several times for straying below the belt as Hall of Fame referee Stan Christodoulou kept control, immaculately, as always.
Budler improved his record to 24-1 with 6 knockouts and Joyi ‘s dropped to 23-1, with one no-contest and 16 knockouts.
The 30-year-old Joyi is still good enough to beat many of the leading fighters in the division but even he must have been astounding at the speed the 25-year-old champion from Brixton, west of Johannesburg, maintained.