With just four days to go until the biggest boxing tournament of the year, excitement was at fever-pitch at the pre-fight medical and media conference at Emperors Palace for “Supercharged” on Tuesday afternoon.
Unusually, there was no smack talk with the respect between all the boxers very evident. Byron Rojas spoke up Hekkie Budler’s status as the best strawweight in the world and both Paul Kamanga and Roman Belaev exuded cool confidence ahead of Saturday.
Happily, all the fighters were within five percent of the allowable weight and passed their medical checks.
Before a large media contingent, promoter Rodney Berman laid out the rewards for Saturday’s winners. Whoever prevails between Grant Fourie and Warren Joubert will appear on the next major bill at Emperors Palace on June 11. Also, while Kamanga is slated to fight in Las Vegas on May 6, that opportunity will switch to his Russian opponent if Kamanga slips up this weekend.
And Budler, the WBA Super champion and IBO title-holder, will see his big-money bout against CP Freshmart go up in smoke if he loses to the Nicaraguan.
Colin Nathan, trainer of Budler, warned Rojas what he would be up against.
“Rojas is a good fighter, but he’ll be up against a very good, potentially great, fighter. I’m hyper-critical of my fighters and although Brian Mitchell shouted me down and said Hekkie is already great, I believe true greatness is around the corner.
“We’re expecting a tough fight. Rojas throws lots of combinations and is aggressive. But Hekkie can adapt, and that’s going to be the difference.”
Said Rojas: “Hekkie is a very good champion. The world knows him. But I’ve had great preparation in Harold Volbrecht’s gym. There’s no way I’m going home without the title.”
Belaev was also hopeful of winning, after suffering his first – and only – defeat in SA two years ago. “I don’t want to rely on a decision. I felt I was robbed against Ali Funeka. I have the beating of Kamanga.”