South African boxing fans are in for a rare treat on New Year’s Eve with not one but two world title bouts involving SA world champions, live from Macau.
SuperSport 9 will cross to Asia at 9.30am on December 31 for WBA Super world light-flyweight champion Hekkie Budler’s title defence against Hiroto Kyoguchi and IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane’s title bout against Masahiro Sakamoto, also of Japan.
This will be Budler’s first title defence since shocking Ryoichi Taguchi in May and his third consecutive fight away from home.
Not that Budler is concerned: he enjoys being able to compete without distractions and is unfazed by fighting in what amounts to Kyoguchi’s back yard.
“Training has gone well, but I’m sick of it; I just want to fight,” he said at an open media day at the downtown Macau city gym he is using. “It’s been 13 weeks now, longer than usual. It’s gonna be hard – Kyoguchi is a good fighter – but this is what I do.”
The formidable champion, who also holds the prestigious Ring magazine belt, says that his speed and movement will be critical to success, especially as the Japanese is a big puncher.
“I mustn’t get hit,” he said wistfully. “I’m probably the underdog – he’s unbeaten and a great little fighter. But as long as I stick to the game plan, I’ll get the win.”
Mthalane has a similar job at hand. Sakamoto packs a heavy punch and won’t want to be drawn into a tactical fight against Mthalane, who is a pure boxer with silky skills.
“He hits hard and wide,” said the South African. “I must keep my guard up throughout and use my jab all night. His work rate is excellent, but mine’s better.”
Despite his age – 36 – Mthalane shows no signs of slowing down and is the hardest worker in trainer Colin Nathan’s gym. His remarkable record – just two defeats in 38 fights – is underscored by his longevity – he hasn’t lost a fight in 10 years and ranks among SA boxing’s elite.
“People ask if the hunger is still there,” said Mthalane. “I need to feed my family, that’s what drives me. There’s no secret. I train hard, work hard and have good discipline.”