Johannesburg - WBA and IBO strawweight champion Hekkie Budler recovered from a second round knockdown to complete a points win over former WBC champion Xiong Zhao Zhong in Monte Carlo on Saturday night.
Previously unbeaten WBC silver light-heavyweight champion Rayno Liebenberg, however, lost to Eleider Alvarez. Liebenberg received the beating of his career and his first defeat before the referee saved the South African further punishment by stopping the 12-round bout in the seventh round.
The tearaway Budler and Liebenberg had been widely considered two of the biggest drawcards among South African boxers at the moment, and Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman confirmed at ringside that it would now be logical for the unrelenting Budler to seek a unification bout with a champion of either the WBC, IBF or WBO organisations.
The 29 year-old Liebenberg's career and lofty ambitions now appear in tatters as he was outclassed in every department by a skilled opponent, whose systematic punches left the South African with two bloodied eyes and a pummelling that left him battered and bruised.
Zhong stunned Budler with a barrage of right and left hooks in the second round, and then pursued the South African around the ring for the remainder of the round in search of a knockout after the knockdown.
But Budler came back in spectacular fashion in the third round and had Zhong on the canvas himself before going on to a unanimous 114-112 decision by two of the three judges in the closely-fought fight, with the third judge inexplicably giving the South African an exaggerated 118-108 superiority.