After an absence of ten years a WBA world title fight finally took place on South African soil when IBO minimumweight champion, Hekkie “The Hexecutioner” Budler met Colombian, Karluis Diaz for the vacant title at Emperor’s Palace.
It was a long road to the top for Budler who won the IBO light flyweight title in 2010 by outpointing the vastly more experienced Juanito Rubillar. He lost that title on a split decision to current IBO junior bantamweight champion, Gideon Buthelezi and then moved down to boxing’s smallest division, capturing another IBO title of which he made three defenses, victories over former IBF world champions, Florante Condes and Nkosinathi Joyi included among them.
The victory over the dangerous Joyi, who is the current IBO minimumweight champion, established him as a major player on the world scene and he stopped Hugo Hernan Verchelli in four rounds in his next fight to pick up the WBA’s interim belt along with retaining his IBO title. When the WBA world champion, Ryo Miyazaki, moved up in weight, Budler finally got his opportunity to fight for the full title.
With only seven knockouts in 25 fights, Budler was never known as a big puncher, but he sure found some power on the night.
Both fighters started aggressively, exchanging punches in the middle of the ring. Towards the end of the round, Budler began backing Diaz to the ropes. He managed to escape but Budler walked him down and he found himself back on the ropes on the opposite side of the ring. It was then that Budler uncorked a chopping right that landed flush on the chin, flattening Diaz for the count. With the win, Budler joined the illustrious list of South African WBA world champions that include Arnold Taylor, Peter Mathebula, Gerrie Coetzee, Piet Crous, Brian Mitchell, Dingaan Thobela and Simpiwe Vetyeka.
“Hekkie is a great kid, he has done amazing things. No one thought he would become a world champion. Even back then, when he fought (Juanito) Rubillar, they didn’t even want to approve him for the vacant IBO title and look at how well he did,” enthuses promoter Rodney Berman.
Budler made four more title defenses, including wins over former WBC champion, Chaozhong Xiong and former WBA interim champion, Jesus Silvestre in Monte Carlo, as well as future IBO champion, Simpiwe Konkco, before losing his title to the rugged Byron Rojas on points.
He moved back up to light flyweight, dropping a split decision in a controversial fight with Milan Melindo in a challenge for the IBF title before beating Melindo’s conqueror, Ryoichi Taguchi for the WBA, IBF and Ring world titles.
He subsequently lost his titles to Hiroto Kyoguchi in 2018.