In a major coup, Hekkie Budler will challenge for the IBF light-flyweight title in the Philippines on September 16.
Confirming the news in a simultaneous international announcement with champion Milan Melindo’s camp, promoter Rodney Berman said it was the culmination of many weeks’ negotiations.
“I’m thrilled we got the deal done, it’s just what Hekkie deserves after a brilliant career. He’s IBO champion and been WBA champion, giving him the chance to become South Africa’s most celebrated fighter.”
However, Melindo (36-2) looms as a formidable challenge, one that Budler had no hesitation calling “the toughest opponent of my career.”
The reverse is true, too, with Budler (31-2) distinguishing himself throughout a 10-year career.
Melindo won the Interim IBF belt last year, but then in a major upset, stopped Akira Yaegashi in the first round in Japan to claim the IBF belt outright in May.
(Watch from the 9:00 mark)
This is great news,” said Budler, whose IBO belt will also be at stake. “Melindo is a very good fighter, probably the best opponent I will have faced. Going on the road doesn’t faze me. I’ll fight anywhere. I’m sure the Filipinos will watch my fights, they’re all over YouTube. But I’ll change up a few things and do what I’m best at.”
Added Berman: “Melindo’s people obviously believe in their guy, but Hekkie is an unbelievable boxer. This is more than just a major fight; it’s an opportunity to cement his legacy as a multiple belt title-holder. It’s going to be an excellent match, a real treat for the fans.”
In further good news, in the event of winning, Budler will make a first title defence in Philippines as per his contract. He will then have a rematch Melindo for a significant purse.
Trainer Colin Nathan, who has yearned for major overseas fights, couldn’t hide his delight.
“I’m so upbeat about this fight. It was heart-breaking to narrowly lose the WBA belt last year; all we wanted was the opportunity to make things right. We put Hekkie’s name forward and although he’s not the mandatory, we were honoured to get the call.
“Hekkie is 29. Do we want to risk it all? Yes! We’re going to Melindo’s home turf, but it’s a very winnable fight. The odds are against us, but we’re going to win. Hekkie has fought in hostile territory before, but he’s mature enough, and good enough, to win. He must bring his A-game and it’s my job to ensure that happens.”
“I feel no pressure for this fight,” said Melindo. “No matter how many fights he’s had, he’s never fought anyone like me. I want advise him not to put his guard down, because then I might give him the first KO defeat of his career. I already fought some of the best world champions in the world, including Juan Francisco Estrada, so he (Budler) is no threat to me. I have a lot of confidence because God is with me. We’re gonna fight in my territory, where I will run the show and I promise an impressive win.”
Michael Aldeguer, president and CEO of ALA Promotions, said: “This will be one of the biggest fights we’re bringing in Cebu. It’s going to be an exciting fight for the fans as both fighters are world Champions and have similar records. This is a fight that everyone should watch.”
Melindo’s trainer Edito Villamor concluded by saying, “We promise this will be one of the best and action-packed fights for the fans who’ll be watching live and those all over the world. We’ve started training as early as three weeks ago and Milan’s always in perfect condition, so it’s all systems go for us. We’re looking forward to welcoming team Budler in September.”