Former unified junior flyweight titleholder Hekkie Budler will go into the lion’s den when he faces former WBO titlist Elwin Soto at the Palenque Fex, Mexicali, Mexico on Saturday.
Budler, who is rated No. 5 by The Ring at 108-pounds, sits one place behind Soto and is looking forward to testing himself in his opponent’s homeland.
“It’s going to be a hostile crowd but I’m used to that by now,” Budler (33-4, 10 knockouts) told The Ring, having previously ventured to Japan and The Philippines. “I’m excited. It’s going to be hard and tough because he’s extremely good. He hits hard but I like it when the odds are stacked against me. It normally works in my favor.
“[My trainer/manager] Colin [Nathan] will work out the best game plan possible and I’ll listen to what he says. I trust him with my life.”
The 34-year-old South African appreciates this is a crossroads fight for both men.
“For him, it would be back-to-back defeats, [which wouldn’t be good] especially at this time in his career,” said Budler. “For me, it’s what do I still have left? I believe I have enough to win another world title, maybe two, God willing, but we’ll see.”
Nathan admits to dismissing the fight out of hand when it was first proposed.
“Initially I turned it down,” revealed Nathan. “Then we got the letter that it would be for the WBC eliminator and they came back with a ridiculous offer which I rejected. They came back with double that and I said, ‘We’re going another route.’ Then we got the letter from [WBC President] Mauricio [Sulaiman] saying he would sanction it as a final eliminator. Then they came back with an offer and we rejected it and then they came back with what we wanted.”
Nathan, who left South Africa for Mexico with Budler on June 16, is confident his fighter can emerge victorious and set up another title opportunity.
“Hekkie can fight at world-class level, he wants to become champion of the world again,” said Nathan. “I look at it as a big risk but also the reward on the risk is far greater. Please God we win this, which is not inconceivable. I believe Hekkie’s style – if he’s on point – is going to be a nightmare for Soto.
“It’s a business for all of us concerned but I want the best for my fighter and I thought this is a direct path to fight [WBC titleholder] Kenshiro [Teraji] and that’s the goal.”
Soto (19-2, 13 KOs) turned professional in 2016 after a good amateur career. Although he was upset in his third professional bout, he rebounded to win 12 fights. The Mexican was largely unknown when he claimed the WBO title at the expense of Angel Acosta (KO 12). “La Pulga” made three successful defenses besting Edward Heno (UD 12), Carlos Buitrago (UD 12) and stopped former strawweight titleholder Katsunari Takayama (TKO 9). However, the 25-year-old lost his title last time out against Jonathan Gonzalez (SD 12).
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