There’s a fascinating sub-plot to Hekkie Budler’s IBO light-flyweight challenge against Joey Canoy of the Philippines at Emperors Palace on Saturday.
The feisty fighter from Johannesburg’s western suburbs is joint-third on the all-time list of South Africans who have engaged in world title fights. If he wins this weekend, he will move into outright third and be in sight of second-placed Baby Jake Matlala.
Ironically, it was Brian Mitchell who pointed this out to Budler on Tuesday, the same man he is tied with – they have each recorded 14 such bouts.
Cassius Baloyi is out on his own in front, with 26, with the late Matlala second on 16. All four boxers enjoyed long stints with Golden Gloves, not forgetting Welcome Ncita, who engaged in 10 championship fights.
The organisations they all fought for are of varying standard, although former IBF and WBA champion Mitchell probably deserves an asterisk next to his name. Two of his championship fights went 15 rounds, both 30 years ago. In the first, he drew with hard man Joe Rivera and in the next he beat France’s Daniel Londas on points.
Mitchell was an unbeaten 12-0-2 in title fights and Budler, aged 28, is 12-2.
Adding a further layer of irony to the numbers game, Mitchell ranks among Budler’s biggest fans.
“He was loose and all over the place in the beginning, but he became a fantastic fighter. I just love watching him,” said the Golden Gloves publicist. “His technical skill and ability to adjust is second to none. I’m looking forward to see how he goes this weekend,” said the Hall of Famer.