WBA junior flyweight champion Hekkie Budler and IBF flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane will travel to China to defend their belts against Hiroto Kyoguchi and Masahiro Sakamoto at the Wynn Palace Cotai in Macao on Monday, 31 December.
The 30-year-old Budler, 32-3; 10, makes the first defence of his WBA belt against the 24-year-old unbeaten Kyoguchi, 11-0; 8, a former IBF minimumweight champion.
This is a tough task for Budler, the WBA super champion, who in his only fight this year on 20 May went to Tokyo, Japan and did the unthinkable to outpoint the local hero Ryochi Taguchi on a razor thin points decision and claim the WBA, IBF and Ring magazine junior-flyweight belts. The scores on all three judges scorecards were 114-113.
However, the odds are once again stacked against him when he meets another Japanese fighter in Kyoguchi who has had an outstanding career since making his pro debut in April 2016.
He won the IBF minimumweight belt in July 2017 with a points victory over Jose Argumedo and made successful defences against Carlos Buitrago and Vince Paras before moving up to the junior-flyweight division in September this year and scoring a fourth-round stoppage win over Tibo Monabesa (18-0-2). He is now listed as the No. 1 contender by the WBA.
Mthalane one of South Africa’s most underrated fighters, also has the odds stacked against him when he faces the capable 27-year-old Mashiro Sakamoto, 13-1; 9, the No. 15 ranked IBF challenger.
On 15 July this year Mthalane won the IBF flyweight belt for the second time when he beat Muhammad Waseem on a unanimous points decision.
However, it appeared as if age had caught up with the 36-year-old Mthalane when the eight-fight novice Waseem dropped him in the eleventh round and took him all the way. The South African eked out a points decision with scores of 114-113 on two of the judge’s scorecards and a rather wide 116-111.
Speaking to Colin Nathan, who manages and trains both fighters at his Hotbox Gym in Glenhazel, he agreed that after studying footage of both Kyoguchi and Sakamoto his boxers have a tough task ahead of them.