Hekkie Budler went into the lion’s den today, slaying Ryoichi Taguchi in sensational style to win the WBA and IBF junior-flyweight championship belts.
For good measure, he also became the second South African – after Vic Toweel in 1950 – to win the prestigious Ring Magazine belt after a performance that ranks as among the greatest by a local fighter.
Fighting before a baying crowd in Tokyo, Budler swept the early rounds, boxed smartly through the middle and survived a torrid 12th in which was decked to win a unanimous decision by scores of 114-113 all round. It was Taguchi’s eighth WBA title defence.
It was a heroic performance, not least because so few gave him a chance of winning. Taguchi was bigger, defending at home and hadn’t lost in five years.
Not that Budler cared. Having celebrated his 30th birthday two days before, he tore into Taguchi from the beginning, bloodying Taguchi in the fourth and dominating on the inside and fighting with clever angles. The Japanese is a slow starter, but he seemed flummoxed by Budler’s relentless style. Even when Taguchi put shots together, Budler’s defence was tight and he kept active.
In the best performance of his 34-fight career, Budler stayed calm and resolute, even shrugging off a massive left hook by Taguchi in the ninth and getting up after being nailed in the 12th.