By Jake Donovan
In a week where promoter Rodney Berman was desperate to hear good news of any kind, his silver lining came in the unlikeliest of places – a sanctioning body doing the right thing.
The WBA has approved the request made on behalf of Hekkie Budler to elevate the strawweight’s status from interim to full titlist Wednesday afternoon.
Golden Gloves Promotions, for whom Budler fights, made the request shortly after the New Year began to have Budler advanced in the wake of Ryo Miyazaki having outgrown the division. Budler was named interim titlist following a knockout win over Argentina’s Hugo Verchelli last November, a win that came in the wake of Miyazaki dropping his title in pursuit of a light flyweight belt.
Those plans crashed and burned after the diminutive Japanese boxer struggled to make the 108 lb. weight limit for his New Year’s Eve showdown with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr., passing out from dehydration following the weigh-in. Sakkreerin Jr, who remains ranked in the WBA strawweight rankings, picked up the pieces in scoring a shocking 3rd round knockout on the road in Osaka, Japan.
Whether Budler will have to face Sakkreerin or another top contender in the near future, it’s now confirmed that he will be the man to beat rather than have to fight for yet another vacant title.
The news came as a sigh of relief to Berman, who has been affiliated with fight postponements in three straight days this week. Unbeaten fringe contender Thomas Oosthuizen suffered scrapes and bruises from a motorcycle accident on Monday, resulting in his withdrawal from a planned HBO-televised showdown with Eleider Lavarez and serving as the last straw with Berman, who abruptly released him from his contract.
From there, his week only grew worse, with Nathan Cleverly and Martin Murray pulling out of separate bouts on Golden Gloves’ upcoming February 1 show in Monte Carlo. Cleverly was pulled by his promoter Frank Warren due to undisclosed injuries, leaving Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu high and dry without an opponent.
Earlier Wednesday, Murray followed suit, as opponent Jarrod Fletcher was notified by his handlers that the hunt was on for a new foe for their middleweight fight after the Brit walked from the show.
Even with good news, however, Budler’s promoter believes it’s the least the sanctioning body could have done for his fighter.
"This is no more than he deserves after winning the interim title,” insists Berman, Budler’s promoter. “In beating Nkosinathi Joyi last year, he reaffirmed his status as the number one in the division.”
Budler’s immediate team expressed a bit more gratitude.
"I always had faith the WBA would do the right thing,” believed Colin Nathan, Budler’s trainer and manager. “Hekkie just keeps on winning. His passion for boxing is second to none. South Africa has had just a few WBA champions over the years. I'm thrilled that Hekkie has joined this select group."
Budler (24-1, 7KO) first rose to prominence following a pair of narrow points wins over Juanito Rubillar in 2010. However, it was his upset win over former top strawweight Nkosinathi Joyi last June that forced the industry to stand up and take notice of his rise towards the top the division.
There isn’t any particular fight scheduled for Budler in the immediate future, although there are plenty of opportunities abound. Should Sakkreerin Jr. be able to drop down to 105 lb. – having spent the majority of his career at junior flyweight and flyweight – there exists a compelling storyline for a pairing down the road.
Also waiting in the wings is Mexico’s Jesus Silvestre, who landed on the wrong end of a debatable decision in his title shot versus Miyazaki last September. The fight marked Miyazaki’s final defense of the title, and Silvestre has remained at the top of the rankings, just below Budler and now conceivably the leading candidate for next dibs at the South African boxer.
Whomever the opponent, Budler’s team has the utmost confidence their fighter will land on his feet.
“Budler has tremendous talent and I've no doubt he will hold the belt for a long time."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Hekkie Budler