By Clinton van der Berg
WBA light-flyweight super champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10 KOs) is sick of training. “I just want to fight,” he said ahead of his New Year’s Eve title defense against Japan’s Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8 KOs) in Macau. The pair meet on the undercard of the vacant WBO world super-flyweight championship between Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13 KOs) and Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23 KOs) at the Wynn Palace.
The third world championship on the bill will see Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24 KOs), like Budler of South Africa, defend his IBF flyweight belt for the first time against Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9 KOs) of Japan.
Budler, Mthalane and Nietes all worked out for the media at a light training session in Macau on Friday, with the champion South African pair taking time out afterward to talk about their assignments.
This will be Budler’s third consecutive fight on the road, but if he has any concerns, he wasn’t showing as much. He claims that he enjoys being able to compete without distractions and is unfazed by fighting in what amounts to Kyoguchi’s back yard.
“Training has gone well, but I’m sick of it; I just want to fight,” Budler (32-3) said at the downtown Macau city gym he is using. “It’s been 13 weeks now, longer than usual. It’s gonna be hard – Kyoguchi is a good fighter – but this is what I do.”
The formidable champion, who also holds the prestigious Ring magazine belt, says that his speed and movement will be critical to success, especially as the Japanese is a big puncher.
“I mustn’t get hit,” he said wistfully. “I’m probably the underdog – he’s unbeaten and a great little fighter. But as long as I stick to the game plan, I’ll get the win.”
Mthalane has a similar job at hand. Sakamoto packs a heavy punch and won’t want to be drawn into a tactical fight against Mthalane, who is a pure boxer with silky skills.
“He hits hard and wide,” said the South African. “I must keep my guard up throughout and use my jab all night. His work rate is excellent, but mine’s better.”
Despite his age – 36 – Mthalane shows no signs of slowing down and is the hardest worker in trainer Colin Nathan’s gym. His remarkable record – just two defeats in 38 fights – is underscored by his longevity – he hasn’t lost a fight in 10 years and ranks among SA boxing’s elite.
“People ask if the hunger is still there,” said Mthalane. “I need to feed my family, that’s what drives me. There’s no secret. I train hard, work hard and have good discipline.”