By Joe Koizumi
South African Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10 KOs), 108, upset WBA/IBF 108-pound champ Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12 KOs), 108, as he took the leadoff in earlier rounds, withstood the champ’s retaliation in later rounds and survived a knockdown in the final session to be awarded a hairline unanimous decision (all 114-113) over twelve hard-fought rounds on Sunday in Tokyo, Japan.
The lanky and much taller Taguchi, making his eighth defense of the WBA belt and his initial defense of the IBF title, was a prefight favorite, but Budler, ex-WBA 105-pound ruler, was in command with his shifty mobility and quick combinations in the first half. Taguchi, a slower starter, turned loose from the sixth on, but Budler gamely responded to the champ’s retaliation although the tide turned in Taguchi’s favor in later rounds.
The final session witnessed Taguchi floor Budler with a solid countering left hook, but the referee Samuel Williams erroneously called it a slip. After the round was over, there happened a great roar against the third man’s mistake. With the obvious proof repeatedly shown on the big screen in the arena, the WBA and IBF supervisors had to accept the correction from a slip to a knockdown, and it was announced to see the audience’s joy. The close verdict, however, went to the challenger from South Africa to the crowd’s disappointment.