South African Hekkie Budler, who boasts some pythons and an anaconda for household pets, steps up in class when he takes on Filipino Juanito Rubillar in Johannesburg on February 27.
Rubillar, a compatriot of Manny Pacquiao, is an experienced campaigner with 68 fights in total, having won 48, lost 13 and drawn seven.
At 32 he is 11 years older than Budler, who comes with an unblemished record of 13 wins, five by stoppage.
On the other hand, the only Filipino fighters to beat South Africans are Pacquiao (against Lehlohonolo Ledwaba) and Nonito Donaire (against Moruti Mthalane).
Local fight critics will tell you that Budler has flaws and could be too wet behind the ears for a fighter of Rubillar’s calibre. Rubillar’s best years appear to be behind him, but at his peak he was a tough world title contender. However, he has lost three of his last five fights, two of them by stoppage.
They are fighting for the marginal IBO’s vacant junior-flyweight title.
Who do you think will win?
Here in South Africa – seemingly miles off the beaten boxing track that is leading Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto to their destiny in Las Vegas on November 14 – two local boxers who have fought these great warriors are offering different views on who will emerge victorious.
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, who lost on a sixth-round TKO to Manny Pacquiao in 2001, and Lovemore Ndou, a points loser to Cotto in 2004, were present at a press conference on Tuesday ahead of a big tournament in Johannesburg this weekend.
Ledwaba, who has picked up some weight since hanging up his gloves after suffering a detached retina, is now working as a trainer in Bloemfontein – which means many weekend trips to visit his family at home in Johannesburg.
“Hands of Stone” Ledwaba, one of South Africa’s finest boxers of the past decade or so, is tipping Pacquiao to win, although he reckons it will be a tough encounter that is likely to go the distance.
“Manny’s in his prime, but he’s fighting a really tough guy. Manny doesn’t like fighting a boxer who likes attacking the body, and Cotto is good at that. I’d still say Manny will win, but he must stay on the outside. He can’t afford Cotto to get inside.”
But Ndou, who fought out of Australia for years although he’s now training in east Johannesburg with Harold Volbrecht (a welterweight contender in the 1980s), reckons Cotto will have the advantage. “I fought Cotto – he’s a strong, smart fighter. I don’t think it will be easy, but if I had to bet, I’d put my money on Cotto.”
Ndou, also a former sparring partner of Floyd Mayweather, said he had no doubt who would win if Pacman and “Money” ever got it on. “Mayweather will win with one hand behind his back.”
Ndou, the IBO welterweight champion, is scheduled to defend against Matthew Hatton, Ricky’s brother, on November 13, and he’s confident of keeping his belt. “He’s living off his brother’s name. He’s like a donkey in a horse race. You can feed him carrots and make him think he’s a race horse, but I’ll show that he’s just a donkey.”
Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire share a unique achievement. They are the only Filipino fighters to have beaten South African boxers in big fights – and there have been several such bouts between pugilists from these two nations.
When Manny Pacquiao steps into the ring against Miguel Cotto in what could be the biggest fight of the year on November 14, few may recall that his rise to stardom started eight years ago against a South African fighter.
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, who grew up in Johannesburg’s famous sprawling township of Soweto, was the IBF junior-featherweight champion who, according to promoter Rodney Berman, was on the verge of securing an HBO fight contract.
All he had to do was win the sixth defence of a belt that had seemingly become the property of South Africa. It was first owned by East London-based Welcome Ncita (1990-1992), who lost it to American Kennedy McKinney (1992-1994) before being reclaimed by Ncita’s stablemate, Vuyani Bungu (1994-1999), who defended it a record 13 times before vacating it to step up a division to take on Naseem Hamed.
Ledwaba – one of the finest South African fighters of that era (the other stand-outs included Mzukisi Sikali and Corrie Sanders) – won the vacant IBF junior-featherweight crown.
His sixth defence, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on June 6 2001, appeared to be mere routine – he faced a late replacement, an unknown who once held the WBC flyweight title before losing that belt on a third-round KO. Ledwaba was heavy handed and it seemed unthinkable that a boxer who had stepped up from flyweight would give him a problem.
But that’s exactly what happened. Pacquiao dropped Ledwaba in the opening round and eventually stopped the champion in the sixth. Ledwaba’s performance seemed so ineffectual that Berman effectively dumped him!
It turns out that his loss to Pacquiao was no disgrace. Two years later the Filipino entered superstardom after stepping up to featherweight to score a sensational stoppage victory over the legendary Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera. Wars against Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales followed before moving up to lightweight (David Diaz – wTKO9), welterweight (Oscar De La Hoya – wTKO8) and junior-welterweight (Ricky Hatton – wKO2).
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that more than 80% of people who have voted on this blog’s poll are tipping Pacman to beat welterweight champion Cotto inside the distance. To vote, click here.