Hekkie Budler retained his IBO strawweight title when he beat Renan Trongco on points at Emperors Palace near Kempton Park on Saturday night.
The South African won 117-111 on two cards and 118-110 on the third but his opponent from the Philippines contributed much to an excellent, highly entertaining bout.
The 24-year-old Budler, his hair dyed purple, pink and yellow, showed off a collection of tattoos as well as blistering hand speed as the aggressive little southpaw Filipino demanded respect.
Trongco slipped some sharp lefts through Budler’s defence in the early rounds, refusing to back off when the champion launched his trade-mark double-barrelled attacks.
He showed defiance when Budler nailed him with several solid shots in the sixth round but there were signs that he was slowing down. However, he came straight back in the seventh to put Budler under pressure.
The champion, never pretending to be a knock-out artist, used his counter-punching talents to score the points that put him out of reach by the end of the eighth round. His ability to maintain concentration was also an important asset, especially when Trongco went looking for the pay-off punch in the final round.
Budler finished the bout in style and had Trongco in trouble in the last 20 seconds or so. But the challenger deserved praise for an outstanding performance after shedding 4 kg to made the weight limit.
Budler, who improved his record to 23 wins, including six knockouts, and one defeat, had won the IBO belt in September 2011 when he beat Michael Landero from the Philippines on points. The title was vacant at the time.
Trongco, 24 years old, dropped to 12-4, with 8 knockouts.
The referee was Andile Matika and the judgese Tony Nyangiwe, Bruce McTavish from the Philippines and Terry O’Connor from the UK.