Heavy-handed Budler, Golovkin earning sizable recognition
Boxing stardom is hardly a one-size-fits-all proposition.
The International Boxing Organization championship roster provides ample evidence – ranging from the intimidating presence of Wladimir Klitschko, the heavyweight kingpin who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs nearly 250 pounds, down to a strawweight title-holder who eats multiple meals to stay close to the 105-pound weight limit.
But if you think the small frame means Hekkie Budler is without menacing prowess, think again.
The tiny 26-year-old will risk his divisional crown for the eighth time on Feb. 21 at the Salle des Étoiles in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where he’ll face No. 5-ranked challenger Jesus Silvestre as part of the undercard supporting another IBO champion – middleweight Gennady Golovkin – who’ll defend against his own fifth-ranked challenger, Martin Murray, in an HBO-televised main event.
Budler became the IBO’s top man in the 105-pound ranks with a unanimous decision over Filipino foil Michael Landero in September 2011, just three months before Golovkin ascended to the organization’s middleweight throne with a first-round KO of veteran American contender Lajuan Simon.
Both men captured vacant IBO titles with their victories, and both have subsequently gained widespread recognition from fans and media – not to mention other sanctioning bodies – as their reigns lengthened.
Budler, in fact, had already won, defended and lost the IBO’s 108-pound championship across an 11-month stretch across 2010 and 2011 before moving down three pounds to defeat Landero.
Three of his subsequent seven challengers have failed to last the 12-round distance, and the World Boxing Association elevated him to its top-tier championship status in February 2014, prior to one-sided victories over Karluis Diaz (KO 1), Pigmy Kokietgym (KO 8) and Xiong Zhao Zhong (UD 12).
New York Times writer Sam Borden profiled Budler the day before the most recent successful title defense in October, under a headline combination that read: “Tiny Champ Is Watching Talent Soar as Belt Sags. Tiny Boxing Champion Hekkie Budler Rules in Lightest Division.”
“Among the reasons that Budler, who is nicknamed the Hexecutioner, has shot to relative fame in South Africa is because he has won a lot,” Borden wrote, “and because he has the ability to deliver devastating punches, which is not necessarily the norm in his division.”
Fifty-five pounds up the weight class spectrum, Golovkin’s star shines proportionally bright as well.
He’s become a cable television favorite thanks to a consecutive knockout streak that stretches back to 2008 – a span of 18 fights and just 68 rounds – and an IBO run that’s included nine decisive defenses.
His most recent victory, a second-round stoppage of Marco Antonio Rubio, continued the trend of other sanctioning groups grabbing a spot on the bandwagon, too. The World Boxing Council awarded him its interim title after the victory, and the triumph was his second since the WBA recognized him with its super title.
Ed Levine, the IBO's President, is understandably pleased to see that fighters who hold its titles are gaining recognition on a worldwide basis.
“It’s terrific for the sport to have fighters establish themselves the way these two have,” he said. “Unified champions take away some of the confusion. The fans simply want to know who the best fighters are in every division and I don’t think there’s any question that Golovkin and Budler have proven themselves worthy of being recognized as the best.”
That said, the Feb. 21 challengers are no slouches either.
Silvestre has 22 knockouts in his 30 victories since turning pro at the age of 17 in 2006, and he comes into the Budler fight having scored stoppages over Eduardo Munoz (TKO 3) and Josue Vega (TKO 5) in matches in August and November of 2014. He’s never competed for an IBO title, but did lose a razor-thin majority decision in a WBA title try at 105 pounds in September 2013.
Murray, meanwhile, has just a single loss and a draw in 31 pro fights, and he was viewed as a winner by many upon challenging then-WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in April 2013. Instead, in spite of scoring the fight’s lone knockdown, he lost a unanimous decision in Martinez’s native Argentina.
He’s won four straight outings since, however, and appears eager to have a chance at a fighter who’s recently been labeled with ominous tags like “most avoided” and “most feared.”
“It’s a tough fight, I’m under no illusions,” Murray said. “Golovkin is a punching power machine, but I have the tools to beat him. I expect it will be tough and I’ll need to go through pain, but I’m prepared for that, whatever it takes.”