Rodney Berman didn’t mince his words in telling IBF and WBO minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama to put up or shut up in the wake of rival champion Hekkie Budler’s successful WBA and IBO title defences in Monte Carlo.
Takayama’s camp has played a game of cat and mouse ever since he won the titles in December, goading Budler, but not following through on serious attempts at a unification fight.
“Silence yet again! Another toothless challenge against Budler! Is Takayama scared? The Ring magazine belt is vacant – let’s do it!” Berman wrote in a scathing letter to Maio Ryohei, Takayama’s adviser, earlier this week.
It seems to have worked. Ryohei then explained that Takayama has an optional title defence on April 22 and then an IBF mandatory in July or August, at which point a unification fight could become a reality. “Please start the negotiation,” said the Japanese.
Of course, such a mega-fight is contingent on Takayama coming through his next two fights with his championship intact.
Golden Gloves is confident of doing a deal, although Berman was quick to add that he would have to break the bank to do so. Indeed, the numbers stack up to around R6-million, which would make it the highest paying strawweight fight in history.
Apart from the hefty fight purses, four separate sanction fees would have to be paid, plus travel and expenses for multiple fight officials.
“I’m committed to giving Hekkie the opportunity of making history in his division, and in South African boxing. No-one has held four titles simultaneously, but I’m confident he’s the man to do it. He’ll clean up.”
The money, and Takayama’s reluctance to travel to SA, means that the fight would have to take place offshore. Budler obviously won’t go to Japan either, making a neutral venue like Monte Carlo a smart compromise.
Besides, Golden Gloves has a November tournament it needs to put together in Monaco. Budler is very much the golden boy there, so putting the fight on in the principality seems to be a no-brainer.
“Both guys need to keep winning, but I’m confident we can put something special together,” said Berman.
Watch this space.