MANILA, Philippines - Filipino five-time world title challenger Juanito Rubillar is hoping his luck will turn when he takes on newly crowned IBO lightflyweight champion Hekkie (The Hexecutioner) Budler in a rematch at the Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park, Gauteng, South Africa, on June 19 but he’ll be paid $2,500 less than in their first controversial meeting.
Rubillar’s manager Gabriel (Bebot) Elorde Jr. said yesterday the smaller purse is inconsequential as is the fact that promoter Shona McTaggart of Golden Gloves is providing for one less plane ticket.
“I can’t complain,” said Elorde. “Juanito is the challenger, not the champion, and I’m just happy to be given a second chance. I’m grateful to Shona and Rodney Berman (Golden Gloves chairman) for agreeing to the rematch.”
Last month, Rubillar lost to Budler via a majority 12-round decision for the vacant IBO 108-pound title at Emperor’s Palace where the 20-year-old South African has fought 12 of his 14 bouts. The verdict was widely criticized by sportswriters, prompting IBO president Ed Levine to order an immediate rematch.
A point of dispute was the presence of three South African judges two of whom unconscionably saw it for Budler despite Rubillar’s dominant showing. For the record, Lulama Mtya had it, 117-113, and Deon Dwarte, 115-113, both for Rubillar while Isaac Tshabalala scored it, 114-all.
Chicago referee Pete Podgorski appeared to throw neutrality out of the window. In the late going, Rubillar dropped Budler with a legitimate blow but Podgorski ruled it a slip after counting to two. Elorde said the fight tape provided by Golden Gloves was only up to the seventh round and conveniently missed the knockdown.
Podgorski, 56, was the same referee who abruptly halted IBF flyweight champion Nonito Donaire’s fight against Raul Martinez in the fourth round at the Araneta Coliseum last year. Martinez was floored and skidded to the canvas. Podgorksi didn’t bother to count or check Martinez’ condition and suddenly, waved it off, raising eyebrows from a few veteran referees at ringside.
“Budler went down from a punch and Podgorski started to count,” said Elorde. “When he reached the count of two, he looked at us and ordered one of our seconds (Archer Villamor) to wipe the water on the canvas near our corner. Then, Podgorski forgot about the count, ruled it a slip and let the fight continue. I couldn’t believe what he did. It was the first time I saw anything like it.”
Elorde said he was advised by friends to protest the verdict but decided against it as the case would’ve meant an investment of $1,000 as filing fee.
“I e-mailed Mr. Levine and forwarded stories from the press questioning Budler’s win,” said Elorde. “A hometown decision is nothing new in boxing. You learn to live with it. But in this case, I asked Mr. Levine for a rematch and I’m grateful that Rodney and Shona agreed.”
To be fair, Elorde said he was approached by McTaggart right after the bout and offered a rematch although no terms were discussed. The contract for the return fight arrived a week ago and Elorde has signed it.
In the first bout, Rubillar was accompanied by trainers Ding Cabanela and Villamor and Elorde as Golden Gloves provided four plane tickets. In the rematch, only three tickets are in the budget and even Rubillar’s purse will be cut by $2,500.
Elorde said he’s not in a position to bargain for neutral judges. The word is two of the three judges in the rematch will be Americans and one will presumably be South African.
“Both Golden Gloves and the IBO have recommended that a rematch take place in order for the result to be free of contention,” said Berman, quoted by the South African press. “Not that we are questioning the credibility of the three judges but since they were all South Africans and the contest was fought at such a fast pace, it was understandable that there would be allegations of a hometown bias. I know that Budler himself would like nothing more than the opportunity to reinforce his status as the new world champion as this would considerably benefit his reputation.”
Budler’s trainer Colin Nathan said he welcomed the opportunity to set the record straight. “It was a credible fight but as champions, we accept the challenge,” he said. “We felt that we won it fair and square but all I can say is that history will repeat itself and we will beat Rubillar more convincingly.”
Elorde said Rubillar fought cautiously in the first four rounds, wary that an accidental headbutt would result in a no-contest or technical draw. He turned on the heat starting the fourth round and Budler took a bad beating.
“We’ll do the same in the rematch,” said Elorde. “We’ll go to the body like we did before but this time, we’ll be even more aggressive so we won’t rely on the scorecards to win.”
Elorde said Budler’s youth and inexperience will prove to be his undoing. Budler was only four years old when Rubillar made his pro debut in 1994. Rubillar’s record is 48-14-7, with 23 KOs, compared to Budler’s 14-0, with five KOs. Rubillar has lost in five bids for the world title, starting in 1999 when he bowed to another South African, Zolani Petelo, for the IBF minimumweight crown in Cambridgeshire, England.