Hekkie Budler understands the uphill climb he faces in his latest title challenge.
The welcomed risk comes with the potential reward of being one more win away from history.
Kenshiro Teraji (21-1, 13KOs) is an overwhelming favorite to defend his lineal, WBC and WBA junior flyweight titles versus Budler (35-4, 11KOs). An upset will leave the visiting South African as a three-time titlist spanning two weight divisions.
Budler previously held the WBA strawweight title and was the unified WBA/IBF junior flyweight titlist. A victory on Monday at Ariake Arena in Tokyo will give the 35-year-old his first WBC title, after which he would love to next face WBO junior flyweight titlist Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez. The allure of another unification bout is attractive, though more so with what would come at the other end.
“No fighter from South Africa has won all four of the major titles (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO),” Budler noted to BoxingScene.com. “I would love to be the first and make that history for my country.”
That line of thinking was why Budler reluctantly agreed to step aside from a mandatory title challenge versus Teraji earlier this year.
The WBC was prepared to order the fight but Budler and his team—including top trainer Colin Nathan—agreed to allow Teraji to pursue a three-belt unification versus Puerto Rico’s Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14KOs). The fight was due to take place April 8 but Gonzalez fell ill and was forced to withdraw. Teraji had to settle for late replacement Anthony Olascuaga, whom he stopped in the ninth round but was left to honor his WBC mandatory title defense.
Teraji-Budler now comes with the WBC and WBA belts and lineal championship at stake. Gonzalez will put his WBO belt on the line versus Nicaragua’s Leyman Benavides on October 27 in Managua.
With any luck, the winners will meet early next year.
“I know I have to get past Kenshiro Teraji first,” acknowledged Budler, who has won three in a row. “But what an honor it would be to go down in the history books like that.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox