Budler, Liebenberg in fights of their lives

WBA and IBO strawweight champion Hekkie Budler and unbeaten WBC silver light-heavyweight champion Ryno Liebenberg will be involved in crucial, career-shaping bouts on Rodney Berman's Golden Gloves promotion in Monte Carlo on Saturday night.

Budler will be defending his two titles against China’s former WBC champion Xiong Zhao Zhong, while Liebenberg, fresh from his gruelling, bloodied success over Russian Denis Grachev at Emperors Palace recently, will come up against another unbeaten fighter in the highly-rated Canadian-based Colombian Eleider Alvarez.

Budler and Liebenberg were widely considered two of the biggest drawcards among South African boxers at the moment, with their looming fights in Monte Carlo critically important to their blossoming careers.

But defeats for either of them, on testing foreign soil, would seriously dent their international image and jeopardise the big plans Golden Gloves had for the two boxers.

“It’s an honour to fight a true champion,” Budler said at the tournament preamble on Thursday.

“The two of us are going to have an amazing war. There will be bombs thrown from the first round.”

Zhong said he had trained religiously for 10 weeks in a bid to regain one of boxing’s myriad of titles.

“I expect to prevail,” he said.

But Colin Nathan, the trainer-manager of both Budler and Liebenberg, hit back with the comment that Zhong had “ducked” numerous opportunities of a unification title fight with Budler last year when he was still the WBC champion.

Apart from his WBA and IBO belts, Budler is ranked number one strawweight in the world by the authoritative Ring Magazine — the only South African honoured in this manner.

Liebenberg is rated sixth by the WBC and Alvarez at number 11, but Ring Magazine ranked the Colombian among their top 10 light-heavyweights, with Liebenberg not listed.

Nathan said it was not often you had the intriguing situation of two unbeaten, high-profiled international fighters coming face-to-face in the light-heavyweight division to retain their records.

“I’ve seen a lot of footage and Alvarez is one of the best light-heavies in the world. We have a gameplan. We’ll be ready,” he said.

Liebenberg said Alvarez fought more in the textbook mould employed in amateur boxing.

“Alvarez is a good fighter, but I’m a great fighter. All the guys he spars with I consider my future opponents.”

– Sapa

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boxing Hekkie Budler Other sport Ryno Liebenberg

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