The best-laid plans of promoter Rodney Berman went up in smoke on Saturday night.
As Hekkie Budler took shot after shot against an inspired Byron Rojas, the veteran boss of Golden Gloves knew that hopes of big-money bouts and unification clashes had gone up in dust as Budler lost for just the second time in 10 years.
It was a strangely lethargic performance by the boxer and one described by Berman himself as “inexplicable”.
“It was such an uncharacteristically below-par performance . . . very tepid and ordinary, not least at the end where he really needed to pick it up,” despaired Berman.
The proverbial cat has now been thrown among the pigeons.
Berman revealed that the Nicaraguan’s management had refused to pay the IBO sanction fee, leaving the belt vacant. This opens up the intriguing possibility of a title shot for Simphiwe Khonco, a former Budler victim who ironically paraded one of his old rival’s belts on Saturday.
There is a view that Budler should move up a division, but Berman isn’t so sure, based on Budler’s lack of power at strawweight even. His skills rather than his strength made him a standout performer at strawweight.
Wily Berman also ensured he negotiated two options on Rojas, so he effectively has a stake in the new champion’s next two fights. He’s toyed with the idea of importing Knockout CP Freshmart for a Rojas clash in SA, although whether that would fly locally isn’t a certainty.
There may even be a voluntary title defence, with Khonco getting the call.
With the dust still to settle on Saturday’s shock result, Berman says he will sit down this week with the fighter and his manager, Colin Nathan, to forge a new plan.
It won’t be easy. Berman moved heaven and earth to secure the WBA title and then Super status. Such things never come easy in boxing. He’s now on the back foot, and that’s never a good place to be.
Happily, Paul Kamanga continued his unbeaten run, although he, too, ran hot and cold against Roman Belaev on Saturday. Next stop for him is Las Vegas on May 6 where nothing less than a compelling win will do.