Hekkie Budler didn’t fly to Cebu for a vacation

Ryan Songalia
Hekkie Budler didn’t fly to Cebu for a vacation
Hekkie Budler, who faces Milan Melindo this Saturday, is intent on returning to South Africa with the IBF junior flyweight title

MANILA, Philippines – Hekkie Budler and team have made it clear that they did not fly 7,000 miles for a paycheck or a vacation.

So intent is the South African fighter in giving himself the best chance to defeat IBF junior flyweight champion Milan Melindo this Saturday, September 16, his team paid for an additional 3 nights on top of the 7 provided by Philippine promoter ALA Promotions, to arrive in Cebu City 10 days ahead of the fight.

“I think the playing field will probably be a lot closer now,” said Budler’s trainer Colin Nathan, who haggled with ALA to get better accommodations so they could get comfortable before the fight, which headlines the Pinoy Pride 42 card at Waterfront Hotel. 

“We’re fighting in the opponent’s hometown, there’s always an advantage to him. But the jet lag was brutal and we only got over the jet lag yesterday or the day before. So those 3, 4 extra days have done us a world of good.”

Budler (31-2, 10 knockouts) recognizes the seriousness of the task he has ahead of him against Melindo (36-2, 13 KOs), saying the 29-year-old from Cagayan de Oro City is a bigger puncher than his 34% KO percentage suggests, and that his first round knockout win over Akira Yaegashi in May was no fluke.

“I think this is gonna be my hardest fight,” said Budler, also 29,  and a former WBA strawweight champion. “I don’t think he’s appreciated enough for his ability. In my eyes he’s a great fighter, I think his counterpunching is absolutely brilliant and I think he’s got more power than his record suggests. 

Still, he’s confident that his preparation, in the elevation of Johannesburg where he lives, will be enough on fight night.

“Colin has worked out a brilliant game plan which we’ve worked into my mind. I don’t think whatever Milan does will counter the training we’ve done,” said Butler. “I’m super ready, super fit and I want to be a world champion again.”

Budler, a pro since 2007, has won twi straight since his razor thin points loss to Byron Rojas in March of 2016. He says he’s been treated very well by fans in Cebu saying, remarking “I’m actually better known in the Philippines than in South Africa if you can believe that.”

That’s not terribly surprising considering the number of Filipino boxers he’s beaten, including Juanito Rubillar (twice), Michael Landero, Florante Condes, Renan Trongco and, in his last fight in February, Joey Canoy.

Budler isn’t worrying about Philippine boxing, however. He’s focused on improving his status among the greatest boxers from his own country.

“It’s gonna be massive for me, especially for me as a boxer personally, another step in my goal to becoming one of the greats of South African boxing,” said Budler. “And it’d be a massive honor to beat a fighter like Milan.” – Rappler.com

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