Boxing Snippets

Budler’s world comes crashing down

As the mantle passes from one champion to the next, Hekkie Budler hoists Byron Rojas after their 12-round battle at Emperors Palace. Pic: James Gradidge (N-Squared)

The long-standing reign of Hekkie Budler was brought to a shuddering halt at Emperors Palace on Saturday after running into a freight train named Byron Rojas.

The little-known Nicaraguan produced the performance of his life to rip the WBA and IBO titles from Budler, who had no answer to the South American’s clever angles and sharp-shooting.

All three judges scored it 115-113, instantly slamming the brakes on a potential unification fight for Budler. Instead, he will have to rebuild and hope he never sees the likes of Rojas again.

Rojas beat Budler to the punch time after time, his fast, accurate punches doing a world of wonder against the out-of-sorts South African who was unable to find his rhythm. Budler is best when he dictates the pace, but Rojas’ swarming style stopped him at every turn.

The champion was also banged up more than usual and twice, in the second and fifth rounds, he was examined by the ringside doctor.

The pair set a furious pace from the off and from early on it was obvious that Rojas was in town to do a job. His movement and punch selection was world class and he refused to be cowed by an Emperors Palace crowd that roared on his opponent.

A battered Hekkie Budler, sliding to defeat against the excellent Byron Rojas. Pic: James Gradidge (N-Squared)

The fact that Budler’s title was slipping away was evident through the middle rounds. Indeed, in the ninth round promoter Rodney Berman bellowed “Wake up!” to Budler, who clearly never heard. He took a big pummelling in the 10th, his worst of the fight, and from there it was downhill as Rojas pressed home the advantage.

As the scores were announced, Budler hoisted the new champion in the air, classy to the very end. Their faces told the story: Rojas was practically unmarked; Budler looked as if he had gone to war. In a sense, he had.



Paul Kamanga came through a test of fire against rugged Russian Roman Belaev, who represented a big step up in class.

Belaev was the fighter to Kamanga the boxer, pressing the action and turning roughhouse in a bid to unsettle the hometown hero. It was a classic contest spoiled only by the performance of the judges, two of whom awarded the fight to Kamanga 116-111. The third, Thabo Spampool, denied the gutsy Russian with an outrageous 119-108 card that insulted every spectator. It was home-cooking on a grand scale.

There was nothing pretty about the Paul Kamanga-Roman Belaev fight, but it was a rousing affair over 12 rounds. Pic: James Gradidge (N-Squared)

The Russian claimed afterwards to have struggled heavily with the altitude – “my legs felt like cotton wool from the fourth round” – but he fought a relentless pace.

Kamanga was best when fighting at a distance, his long, prodding jab a good weapon against the shorter, more flat-footed visitor. Belaev, in turn, tried to hustle in close. He rammed home uppercuts and digs to the body and was effective in applying pressure, although he did have a point deducted in the seventh for using his head.

Kamanga, still serving a tough apprenticeship, wasn’t always sure how to cope with the pressure and at times looked awkward and overwhelmed.

But he has a claim to being the fittest boxer in the country and his fitness allowed him to survive many of the inside exchanges.

Too bad the performance of the judges never measured up.


Were Warren Joubert and Grant Fourie to fight 10 times, they would probably win five each.

As it is, they’re now 1-1 after producing yet another local thriller for the WBA Pan-African junior-welterweight belt. Impressed by their efforts, promoter Rodney Berman promptly stumped up R5000 to add to their purses.

Joubert calls himself “The Warrior” and a warrior-like performance was what he delivered as he battled hard for 12 rounds to win by scores of 115-113, 117-112 and 117-111.

It was a treat to watch a pair of honest-to-goodness pros go about their business. They were both there to be hit and each fighter offered his best in an absorbing fight of give and take.

The obvious road to take is a third meeting to settle things once and for all.

Over to you, Rodney Berman.


Joshua Studdard looked to have too much power for Morabedi Khotle, but the Free Stater overcame a difficult first round to last all six in a rousing match-up.

Studdard won by scores of 58-56, 58-56 and 59-55, embellishing his reputation as one of the best prospects around.

Khotle, the son of former SA flyweight champion Steve “Baby Boy” Khotle, gave DeeJay Kriel a good argument recently and he took the fight to Studdard. It was a good learning experience for the young pro, who took a good couple of shots and had to dig deep to keep off his Free State opponent.

Khotle was all game and he found a willing opponent in Studdard, who had just too much polish and snap for him.

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