Budler, Diaz fight to top bill
Hekkie Budler (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Strawweight champion Hekkie Budler heads the Golden Gloves "African Explosion" bill at Emperors Palace next month, fighting against Colombian opponent Karluis Diaz.
This was announced at the venue adjoining OR Tambo Airport on Tuesday afternoon as traditional boxing ballyhoo for the event took off in front of an appreciative, but somewhat surprised audience.
While Budler is the anointed champion of the less widely-recognised IBO organisation, and recently successfully fought for the title of interim WBA champion, his proclaimed elevation as the fully-fledged WBA strawweight champion without earning the honour in the ring was the subject of some controversy.
According to Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman, the WBA had confirmed the recognition of Budler as their strawweight champion after Japan's Ryo Miyazaki vacated the position moving up to a heavier weight division.
Berman said, according to WBA rules, the interim champion automatically assumed the position of champion once the title was vacated.
Budler's trainer Colin Nathan also said his fighter had every right to be recognised as the WBA champion. Rating him one of the top strawweight fighters in the world did not mean he would have it all his own way in the ring.
"Our investigations have revealed that Diaz is a tough kid who should not be underrated," Nathan said.
"We're not expecting a walkover victory, with Hekkie training diligently to give of his best - as he always does."
In the main supporting bout on the February 15 programme, the undefeated Ryno Liebenberg will defend his WBC international light-heavyweight title against Joey Vegas of Uganda.
Vegas's career record of 16 wins and six defeats is hardly inspiring, but he has fought against opponents of the calibre of Nathan Cleverly, Dean Francis and Dmytro Kucher and has staged something of a belated comeback with victories in his last five ring appearances.
Also featuring on the programme is the improved Johnny Muller, who is expected to have little trouble in accounting for Namibia's Wilberforce Shihepo.