A catch-up with new WBA ‘super’ minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler.
Hekkie, always a great pleasure catching up with you, even more so now that you are a WBA Super champion. Congratulations. How did it feel receiving that honour the other day?
‘It’s just a massive honour and a great feeling. I can’t explain it. Only a select few become Super champions.’
Your next fight is against Byron Rojas of Nicaragua at Emperors Palace in March. How does he shape up as an opponent?
‘I expect a hard fight. He’s good, capable, and has reach over me. He’s a solid counter-puncher. It won’t be easy pickings.’
You’ve definitely evolved as a fighter since your early days as a pro. I think particularly of your defence. Tell us about your development as a fighter.
‘Yes, the biggest change has been my defence. I’ve worked hard. I sat and plotted with [manager/trainer] Colin Nathan. We do something new every day. I’ve also worked very hard on my footwork and head movement.’
One area that has never been in doubt is your fitness. You showed as much against Chao Zhong Xiong in 2014. He put you over with a heavy punch in the second, but you pulled through and promptly knocked him down in the third.
‘Yes, I’ve never compromised in this area. You have no business being in the ring if you aren’t fit.’By Nick Laurens
By many reckonings, Chocolatito Gonzalez is among the three best pound-for-pound fighters. He’s flyweight champ, two divisions above you. It’s a great fantasy fight for fans.
‘I’d love it, I really would. He’s a tremendous boxer, one of my favourites. I’d love to match my skills against his power.
‘Another fight I’d love is against the WBO flyweight champion, Donnie Nietes. He hasn’t lost in 12 years. We’re in different weight divisions, but maybe catchweight . . . ‘
Local man Siyabonga Siyo has just entered the WBA rankings at number seven. Might we see a fight between you two down the line?
‘If they pay me enough, I’ll fight him. I’ve met him a few times. Nice guy, quite a good fighter. They’ve talked about fighting me. It’s easy – just show me the money.’
You’re stablemates with an exciting junior-flyweight in DeeJay Kriel. How good is he?
He’s improving with every fight. He’s working more and more. We spar a lot and he’s more technical than me. He doesn’t work enough during rounds, but he’s getting better.’
Who are the top three fighters in the world today?
‘In no particular order, Chocolatito, GGG and Sergey Kovalev.’
You’re 27 now. How many more years left in the tank?
‘I don’t know. Colin and my family will tell me. I don’t feel it yet. I haven’t taken much punishment. I hope to have a few more years at the top yet.’
Thanks for your time, champ!