Hekkie Budler still treasures the IBO belt he won in his first championship fight in 2010.
It set him on the path to glory and although he later moved up a division and subsequently lost the championship, it always represented his first major honour.
The past weekend he scored a magnificent win over WBA and IBF light-flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi, earning The Ring magazine belt in the process, and IBO president Ed Levine had a warm glow when he learned of the result.
“I’m very happy for him and proud that the IBO gave him the stage,” he wrote Rodney Berman.
Berman was delighted, not least because it was the IBO who first gave Budler an opportunity when his credentials weren’t iron-clad.
Hekkie Budler celebrates as IBO champion, here with wife Roxy. Pic: Yolanda van der Stoep
“Much like GGG, Hekkie wouldn’t be where he is today without the IBO,” said Berman, who has forged a strong association with the US-based organisation.
Others who have worn the IBO belt with pride include Lennox Lewis, Anthony Joshua, Tommy Hearns, Floyd Mayweather jnr and Vic Darchinyan.
Although it is financially prohibitive for South Africans to engage in fights under the banner of the other organisations, the IBO’s structure is sympathetic to emerging markets, which is why so many SA boxers have had success with the Florida-based world body.
While it has its detractors, the IBO has, unlike others, been dignified and scandal-free since its birth exactly 30 years ago. It also cannot manipulate its ratings, a favourite parlour game of some, as it uses independent objective computerised rankings.
“Frankly, it’s only ever been a pleasure working with the IBO,” said Berman. “We’ve had a few arm-wrestles down the years, but it’s never been less than cordial. The IBO has been a huge boon to local boxing.”