MILAN Melindo will have his hands full in his first defense of the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light-flyweight title as he’ll be going up against former world champion Hekkie Budler of South Africa two months from now at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino.
Buddler, 29 and same age as Melindo, once reigned as World Boxing Association (WBA) minimumweight champion, a title he held for two years until yielding the belt to Byron Rojas of Nicaragua in a unanimous decision loss at the Emperors Palace, Kempton Park in South Africa last year.
He has a ring record of 31 wins and two losses, including 10 by KOs.
Despite the challenger’s impressive resume, the champion is hardly daunted in his first fight since stunning the boxing world with a first-round technical knockout win over Akira Yaegashi of Japan at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo last May.
“I feel no pressure for this fight. No matter how many fights he’s had, he’s never fought anyone like me,” said Melindo during the formal announcement of the Sept. 16 title fight in a press conference on Thursday in Cebu.
“I would advise him not to put his guard down because then I might give him the first KO defeat of his career,” added the champion, owner of a 36-2 record with 13 KOs.
Melindo was joined in the event by promoter Michael Aldeguer, president and CEO of ALA Promotions, and long-time trainer Edito ‘Ala’ Villamor.
"I already fought some of the best champions in the world, including Juan Francisco Estrada, so he (Budler) is no threat to me," added the native of Cagayan de Oro.
Team Budler also send its own thoughts about the fight, unfazed that the fighter will have to go through enemy territory to be crowned world champion anew.
“Melindo is a very good fighter, probably the best opponent I will have faced,” said the challenger. “Going on the road doesn’t faze me. I’ll fight anywhere.”
His trainer Colin Nathan agreed with Budler, who became WBA champion when he scored a first-round knockout of Karluis Diaz three years ago.
“We’re going to Melindo’s home turf, but it’s a very winnable fight. The odds are against us, but we’re going to win,” he said. “Hekkie has fought in hostile territory before, but he’s mature enough and good enough to win. He must bring his A-game and it’s my job to ensure that happens.”
Although Budler is not a mandatory challenger, Aldeguer is aware how dangerous an opponent he’ll be for Melindo. But it’s a risk the Cebu-based promotion is willing to take in a bid to give Filipino boxing fans a thrilling world title fight.
“This will be one of the biggest fights we’re bringing to Cebu. It’s going to be an exciting fight for the fans as both fighters are world champions and have similar records,” said the ALA Promotions executive. “This is a fight that everyone should watch.”
Melindo is one of two world champions currently under the ALA Promotions stable, along with IBF flyweight title holder Donnie Nietes.
The two are presently the country’s world boxing champions along with Jerwin Ancajas (IBF junior bantamweight).