South Africa has its first WBA Super champion after the World Boxing Association confirmed Hekkie Budler’s elevation from regular champion this week.
It’s an enormous endorsement of the strawweight champion’s status and puts him in the league of Leo Santa Cruz, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev and Tyson Fury, who all hold Super titles.
The announcement coincided with confirmation on Thursday that Budler’s next title defence will come against Nicaragua’s Byron Rojas (16-2), the 10th-ranked contender. He is also ranked number two by the WBC and number seven by the IBF.
Announcing the news in Johannesburg, promoter Rodney Berman said there would be more pressure than ever on the South African after becoming Super champion.
“People will watch him with a more critical eye,” said the Golden Gloves boss. “Rojas is young and fast and comes to fight. Hekkie won’t have to go looking for this kid. He will have to have his A game, no question.”
Manager-trainer Colin Nathan was delighted with the news from the WBA, saying it was just reward for Budler’s determined rise to the top. “He works harder than anyone and I’m deeply proud of this achievement. I know people diss the various titles, but boxing is an evolving sport and we must embrace change. The fact that so few fighters achieve Super status is what makes this stand out. Hekkie has come a long way and I’m proud to have enjoyed the journey with him.”
Budler will have little time to celebrate as he tops the fight card at Emperors Palace on March 19.
Also in the line-up is Paul Kamanga against dangerous Russian Roman Belaev for the WBA Pan-Africa welterweight title and the rematch between Warren Joubert and Grant Fourie for the SA and Interim WBA Pan-Africa titles.
Rojas, the Nicaraguan, has been on a solid winning streak since 2013. He’s never fought out of his home country and has cleaned up locally.
He will, however, have his hands full against South African boxing’s pound-for-pound king.