South Africa’s Hekkie Budler faces the toughest fight of his career when he challenges WBA and IBF light-flyweight champion Ryochi Taguchi of Japan at the Ota-City General Gymnasium in Tokyo on Sunday.
The Ring championship belt will also be at stake and if Budler is successful he will be the first South African to be awarded The Ring belt since May 31, 1950 when Vic Toweel outpointed Manuel Ortiz for the universal bantamweight title, when there were only eight recognized weight divisions.
The 31-year-old Taguchi (27-2-2, 12 KOs) will be making the eighth defense of WBA belt and the first defense of his IBF belt.
Taguchi made his pro debut in July 2006 and the only two losses on his record have come against Masayoshi Segawa in August 2009 and Naoya Inoue in August 2013.
Since losing to Inoue he has won nine and fought to one draw.
In December 2104 he beat Alberto Rossell for the WBA light-flyweight belt and has made successful defenses against Ekawit Songnui, Luis de la Rosa, Ryo Miyazaki, Juan Landaeta, Carlos Canizales, Robert Barrera and Milan Melindo.
In his most recent fight in December last year against Melindo he retained the WBA belt and captured the IBF belt against the defending champion.
Budler (31-3, 10 KOs) who will celebrate his 30th birthday on Sunday has had an outstanding career since joining the professional ranks on July 5, 2007.
He has won the IBO All Africa junior-flyweight, IBO junior-flyweight, IBO strawweight, WBA minimumweight, WBA Pan African junior-flyweight and IBO light-flyweight titles.
On January 20, 2016, he was elevated to WBA “super” minimumweight champion to become the first and only South African to hold a “super” title.
In his most recent fight in September 2017, he was beaten on a split decision by Milan Melindo in a challenge for the IBF light-flyweight belt. Melindo lost the belt to Taguchi in his first defense.
Taguchi fights from behind a tight defense and even though he has only won 12 fights inside the distance he can hurt to the body.
Budler is not known for his punching power and most critics are predicting a points win for the champion.
The other major organization champions are WBC, Ken Shiro (Japan) and WBO Angel Acosta (Puerto Rico).