Hecky Budler’s quest to become world champion again flared up early on Sunday morning (South American time).
Badler, affectionately nicknamed “The Executioner” by fans, held a technical masterclass against Mexican near-points contender Alvin Soto in the latter’s own backyard in the WBC junior flyweight title eliminator in Mexicali.
The latest feat in his storied career earned the South African the right to challenge reigning WBC junior flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji of Japan.
The diminutive 34-year-old former multiple world champion managed to impress the judges enough to secure a 12-round unanimous decision by 114-113 on all scorecards.
Faced with a hostile home crowd, too many close shots are always a danger to visiting fighters, and Budler and his handlers knew he had to take that away from Soto and dispel any doubts.
He seemed to have done a lot, but judging by the final counts of the three ringside officials, they thought otherwise, and it was the decisive knockdown in the 12th round that changed the verdict in his favor as he increased his career record to 34-4 ( 10 knockouts).
Budler landed a sharp right hand that knocked his opponent off balance in the final round when his glove briefly touched the canvas. Although this might have seemed like a mistake at first glance, the referee considered it a clean punch and set a mandatory standing eight count.
Soto (now 19-3-13), nine years younger than the South African, found his timing and range at first, but his work rate slowed down significantly as the fight progressed.
Budler began to frustrate him with a smart entry-exit approach, waiting for the Mexican to approach him and then dominating the exchanges most of the time.
Soto moved and kept looking for open spots, landed some convincing body shots, but was simply outmaneuvered by Budler’s repertoire and superb ring skill.
Budler made good use of the ring, maintained a high work rate, and never gave the home fighter an opportunity to unload, skilfully scoring points.
“That’s exactly what we’ve been working on. He boxed intelligently and it fit perfectly,” Badler’s glowing trainer Colin Nathan, who was admittedly a bit “baffled” by the protocols, said shortly after the fight.
“Our plan has always been to keep our distance and not follow Soto everywhere. We saw that in the middle of the round he (Soto) got upset and tried to put Hekki ahead.
“We didn’t want to get into a big situation because we knew Soto could come back with one punch. He boxed according to the plan, stayed away from the ropes and was afraid of a counterattack.