The Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park, South Africa saw IBO and WBA “Super” World Minimumweight titleholder Hekkie Budler taking on Nicaragua’s Byron Rojas with both of his belts on the line. Budler was the #1 ranked Minimumweight figher in the world by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board prior to the fight.
Budler was making the sixth defense of his titles, and he entered the fight a huge betting favorite. Budler first won the IBO belt back in September of 2011 with a win over Michael Landero of the Philippines, and he added the WBA belt in November of 2013 when he defeated Argentina’s Hugo Hernan Verchelli.
On Saturday night at the Emperor's Palace however, it was clear from the outset that Rojas was stepping up to the plate, as he took it to the champion and took the large partisan crowd out of it early.
Budler never seemed to get on track, as Rojas came out aggressive, getting to the punch first and beating Budler at his own game. In the early rounds Rojas was able to establish himself, and he comfortably outboxed Budler into the middle rounds of the fight. Rather than tire, Rojas seeming to get stronger as he picked up the pace in the later rounds and the punishment added up on the champion. By the last three rounds, Budler was in bad shape, though the doctors did not check him as they had twice earlier in the fight.
In the end, Rojas was a bit taller and longer, and the hungry 25 year old stayed focused from start to finish. The three judges gave the fight to Rojas via identical scores of 115-113, meaning Budler was one round off from a tie that would have let him retain his titles.
Budler, who the TBRB.org site had ranked #1 will lose that spot, and it will be interesting to see how far up Rojas moves, as he was ranked #9 in the world prior to Saturday. Look for Budler, whose record falls to 29-2, to lobby for a re-match as the 27 year old was in his fourth year as a titleholder, which should be enough to warrant a return date.