few weeks back, South African Hekkie “The Hexecutioner” Budler, 19-1 (6),
won the biggest fight of his life when he beat streaking Filipino Michael
Landero. As much as the win was impressive, the manner in which he won was even
more so, outpointing his rival and hardly losing a round in the process. It marked
a return to form for the 23-year-old Johannesburg product who, earlier this year,
lost a heartbreaking split decision to countryman Gideon Buthelezi. While
Buthelezi unsuccessfully challenged WBC light flyweight kingpin Adrian
Hernandez one fight later, Budler reevaluated his future. His move was to step
down to strawweight, winning a six-round comeback fight before beating Landero.
With that win, Budler is now primed to be one of the players in boxing's
smallest weight class.
Anson Wainwright - You recently recorded arguably the
best win of your career when you beat Michael Landero. What can you tell us
about the fight and how happy were you with your performance?
Hekkie Budler - It was a tough hard
fight and I wasn't expecting it to be easy. I fought the fight according to the
fight strategy, which was to box and not get into a brawl. I fought the right
fight and it turned out to be a great win for me and make me a two-weight world
AW - Though it's early days, when may we see you in action next? Who are you
looking to fight?
HB - There is talk about me fighting on
the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko's next title defence and if it happens, I
will be over the moon as it would be huge exposure for South African boxing and
AW - Your lone loss was to Gideon Buthelezi back in January. What can you tell
us about that fight? Do you believe you should have won?
HB - I had an off night against Gideon.
It was a close fight and I lost that fight on a split decision. I had beaten Gideon
twice as an amateur. Going into the fight, I had a lower back injury and I
couldn't move my body the way I wanted. I would love to avenge my only loss but
I am now a mini-fly (strawweight) and he would have to come down to my new
division and I don't know if he can. But I was hurt about the loss but life
goes on and I have picked up the pieces.
AW - Who are the members of your team?
Also where do you regularly train and what other boxers are in your camp?
HB - My trainer and manager is Colin
Nathan. He has been by my side all throughout my professional career. In fact,
he started training me when I was still an amateur. My promoter is Rodney
Berman, the CEO of Golden Gloves Promotions. He is the best promoter in Africa. I train at Colin Nathan's gym called the
Hot Box Gym in Glenhazel, Johannesburg. Colin probably has the
most talented fighters in South Africa training at his gym with the likes of
Jason Bedeman (lightweight, 15-1-2(12)), Joey Stiglingh (super featherweight,
13-1(7)), Prince Ndlovu (featherweight, 7-3-1(4)) and many other top fighters
training out of his stable.
AW - What do you consider your strengths and what areas of your game do you
believe you need to improve to take yourself to the next level?
- I believe that I am completely dedicated as a professional fighter. I am
always willing to learn and I never think that I know it all. I learn new
things in the gym all the time and am always willing to go that extra mile in
putting in the hard work. Defensively, I have been working very hard in the gym
with Colin, learning to tuck up a little more on the inside and moving my head,
also working on pivots and turns which worked out really well in the Landero
fight. Right now, we are working on myself becoming an all-around complete
AW - What are your thoughts on the strawweight division and its current
champions Kazuto Ioka of the WBC, the WBA’s Pornsawan Porpramook, the IBF’s
Nkosinathi Joyi and Moises Fuentes of the WBO?
HB - I think they are all great
champions. I think that Joyi is probably the best of those champions you just
mentioned. I would love to fight them one day! I think, pound-for-pound,
Joyi is awesome. Yes, it would be a huge fight in South Africa and I would love
to fight him but that is something I would leave up to Colin and Golden Gloves.
They have done an awesome job and I have complete faith and confidence in them.
AW - Last summer, you made your American debut, beating Evaristo Primero in a
close fight by split decision. Tell us about the fight and what it was like
fighting in America. Would you like to go back to America to fight again?
HB - My timing was way off in that fight
and I think I was still a little jet-lagged. We fought in Laredo, Texas and I had a great time being there.
The people were super-nice to me and I loved fighting in America and would love
to go back to Stateside and fight. Boxing in America is awesome and it was a
real eye-opener just how big boxing is in America. I loved every second of
AW - Tell us a little about your life away from boxing. What are your hobbies
HB - I don't like going out to nightclubs
and stuff. Although all my friends my age are into the drinking and clubbing
stuff, I prefer to stay home and play Xbox. I have a steady girlfriend, Roxy,
who also doesn't like going out. I breed pythons and have five although I am
thinking about selling them because if freaks Roxy out and they all stay in my
room! I love hanging out with my family. My Mom and Dad have been very
supportive throughout my whole career and my best friend- who happens to be my
sister, Michaela, is a pillar of strength to me when I fight.
AW - You were born and live in Johannesburg. What was it like growing up there?
Did you have the usual tough upbringing many boxers have?
HB - I have lived in Newlands, Johannesburg my whole life. I have good values in
life due to good parenting from my Mom and Dad. Life at the best of times for
any boxer is not easy. Life has its ups and downs but I always try and make the
best of all situations. Boxing has helped me and has given me a very special
life and I am grateful to the sport.
AW - Can you take us down the path of how you first became interested in boxing?
It is a funny story. I was playing rugby, which is a team sport, and it was one
game that we as a team played and we lost. I was eight years old and started to
blame all my other teammates for losing the game for us. My mother had had
enough of me moaning about the team players and told me that I would have to do
a sport that, if I lost, I could only blame myself and boxing was my first
choice! So it all started as me not being a team player! (laughs) I am glad
that we lost that rugby game!
AW - Who was your boxing hero growing up? Who do you enjoy watching today?
HB – “Baby Jake” Matlala was my
favourite boxer growing up and is still my hero to this day. I have been compared
to him, style-wise, but to me, “Baby Jake” was an amazing fighter. I love
watching Floyd Mayweather and of course “Pac-Man” but generally, I love
watching any boxing and am always supporting the other fighters at the Hot Box
Gym when they fight. I too am a huge soccer fan with my favourite team being
Manchester United and, of course, a proud Springbok (rugby) supporter!