Hekkie Budler is Rodney Berman’s SA Fighter of the Year.
The most powerful man in local boxing opted for the world champion on the basis of two outstanding fights in 2015, the first when he dominated tough Jesus Silvestre in Monte Carlo, followed by a powerful showing against Simphiwe Khonco.
“He dug deep in both fights and showed the class of a champion,” opined Berman, who could also reflect on his stable’s top dog cracking the No 1 ranking of Ring magazine.
Remarkably, Budler was good enough for Ring, but not good enough for the judges at the SA Sports Awards who unfathomably never even bothered to mention him at their annual bash – a reflection on their lack of insight rather than anything Budler did or didn’t do.
The rousing strawweight fight between Budler and Khonco was also in the running for Fight of the Year, but Berman felt it was edged out by the thrilled between Grant Fourie and Warren Joubert. There was a good storyline that underpinned the fight with 32-year-old Fourie overcoming debilitating illness to finally win the title in an all-action fight that went to the wire.
Berman opted for an unusual moment of the year. It was when Lucky Mongebane entered the ring for his pro debut in December, the culmination of a five-year participation with the Dikebu community, made more notable by the chanting and singing of his many supporters.
It was the same afternoon we saw Brandon Thysse and Joshua Studdard in their full plumage, both knocking out opponents. Berman rates them the best of a young and exciting group of young fighters who will be demanding attention in years to come.
Not surprisingly, Gennady Golovkin cracked the nod as International Boxer of the Year with three knockouts in as many fights in 2015, all displaying the power he has become renowned for.