Johannesburg – South Africa's hopes of securing a first, current, unified world boxing champion were on Monday effectively ko'd when China's WBC strawweight champion Xiong Zhao Zhong turned down an offer to meet local tearaway IBO champion Hekkie Budler.
This was announced by disappointed Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman, who had planned to match the two diminutive fighters on a bill he planned to stage in Monte Carlo towards the end of the year.
“Hekkie's sights are set on fighting for the WBC title,” said Berman on Monday, “but the Chinese boxer's handlers seemed disinterested in the match-up, even though we were offering attractive purses to both the boxers.”
Partly due to the escalating rand exchange rate against the US dollar, the enterprising Berman had switched a major slice of his promotional business to Monte Carlo, with two successful tournaments already having been staged in the Monaco principality.
Berman revealed he would now seek another suitable highly-rated opponent for Budler, whose international reputation had heightened since he achieved a narrow defence of his IBO title against former IBF champion Nkosinathi Joyi.
Budler was rated the number two strawweight in the world by the authoritative Ring magazine, but was conscious of the fact that IBO titles did not carry the same weight as those of the supposed “big four” organisations, namely the WBA, the WBC, IBF and the WBO.
Attempts to secure a unification bout for Tommy Oosthuizen, another of the IBO champions under Berman's banner, also received a dampener after “Tommy Gun” fired blanks in his most recent fight against modestly-rated American-Mexican Brandon Gonzales, where he was somewhat lucky to secure a draw.
Berman, however, said attempts to provide Oosthuizen with a fight to revive his wavering career were in process.
But reports of a possible match-up next month in America for Oosthuizen, against the redoubtable Andre Ward, one of the world's leading pound-for-pound boxers, seemed a little far-fetched at this juncture.