Hekkie Budler: Feeling the fame of Kenshiro Teraji in Tokyo as double world title fight looms

“I’ll give you one prediction, that it will be my hand raised at the end of the fight.” 

Hekkie Budler answered my obvious question with little hesitation from his hotel room in Tokyo. 

The former two-weight world champion takes on Japanese superstar Kenshiro Teraji for the WBA and WBC light flyweight titles at the Ariake Arena in the Japanese capital on Monday September 18. He goes in as the underdog and into the lion’s den. 

The ever travelling South African sounded at home from the country that saw him snatch the IBF and WBA from, then star, Ryoichi Taguchi in May of 2018. He made little comparison between the two fighters when we spoke last month, admitting Taguchi was near the end of career when they fought compared to Teraji being at the peak of his powers.

However, Budler returns to the Land of the Rising Sun fighting for two world titles coming in as the underdog against one of the county's treasures. It was hard not to compare but Budler’s point was valid considering the gulf in ability between the two Japanese stars. 

“We landed here 4 four days ago,” Budler explained of his second Japanese conquest in an exclusive interview for ProBox TV. “It’s so hot, it is 51 degrees! But, I love the heat. It’s a similar temperature in South Africa, so I feel good. It took a while to get here though, eight hours to Dubai, then ten hours to Japan. An 18 hour flight altogether. But what can you, that’s what you have to do to have these big fights. The longest trip I had was to Canada. We flew from South Africa to London, which was around ten hours, then another 13 or 14 hours to Canada. Yeah, that was a massive flight.”

Budler (35-4, 11 KOs) comes in at -800 underdog with the bookmakers, the mountain to climb one of the steepest in a career that has seen him take on the very best at 108 pounds.

“He’s massive out here, massive.” Budler continued. “He is a great fighter, that’s why. Even with myself, there were press at the airport waiting for me to arrive. There were also a few people asking for photos. You can tell he is big here, it's not the same like back home. They know me a little in South Africa, but I’m a bigger star over here than I am back home because I am fighting him. That’s how big he is.

“It feels like a big fight week here since I landed. I did the media training yesterday and there were a lot of reporters there. I did some interviews, I enjoyed it. Things are not too busy for me though. I have the press day on Friday, then it’s weigh-in on Sunday and we fight on the Monday. I’m just keeping active with some light bag and pad work. Not doing too much, staying chilled and relaxing. I usually read a book, but I forgot it. The TV is in Japanese, so I’m just watching videos and playing games on my phone, but I’m used to it. Like I said, this is all part of it.”

Teraji (21-1, 13 KOs) has recently joined the likes of Kazuto Ioka and Naoya Inoue providing ESPN with some cutting edge action from the east, the task at hand enormous for the incoming Budler.

“I’m calm, happy, relaxed and confident.” Budler added. “It is going to be one hell of a hard fight, but I believe the work I did and the people I have around me got me here and they know what they are doing. I’m just looking forward to it, it is a great fight. Hopefully the people here really enjoy it and they want me to come back again. It makes me happy to be part of what is happening in Japan and I’m glad more people are watching these types of fights.”