Team Budler left South Africa yesterday for the challenge of their lives.
A flight to the Philippines via Dubai will culminate next weekend in Budler challenging formidable IBF light-flyweight champion Milan Melindo in his Cebu hometown.
The hard work has been done. All that remains is for Budler to familiarise himself with a new and unfamiliar environment.
“We’re going there to win, end of story,” said trainer Colin Nathan. “We see a fighter who is very strong, very proud, and won’t give up his championship easily. But he can be beaten, and Hekkie is the guy to do it.”
Nathan, who is inevitably confident, believes that Budler will have the skills and the game plan to prevail against a tough, experienced opponent (36-2) who has never lost on home soil.
“We have a solid game plan, or two or three. Melindo hits harder than his record suggests, but Hekkie is fit, strong and willing. Nothing scares him.”
Nathan believes Melindo’s team opted for Budler because of his name status. Indeed, for all the wins on the Filipine’s record, no name fighter stands out.
“Presumably they’ve looked at Hekkie’s last few fights and feel they can win. But it’s a mistake,” said Nathan. “They want his scalp, but Hekkie has too much. He’s in his prime and up for the big fights like this one.”
Nathan plans two hard training sessions upon arrival, ensuring his weight remains good, after which active recovery will begin. The intention at every turn will be to keep him sharp.
“We’re going to the champion’s hometown, so Hekkie must ignite. We know the chips are down, but people thought that against Nkosinathi Joyi and three or four others. Hekkie always found a way. He’ll find a way again.”
As for the judges, Nathan has no issue. So long as they do their job, Budler will be fine, he says.