Last chance for Rubillar
- Joaquin M. Henson () - June 14, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - It’s now or never for five-time world title challenger Juanito Rubillar who will go for broke in his rematch with IBO lightflyweight champion Hekkie Budler at the Emperor’s Palace in Kempton Park, Gauteng, South Africa, on June 19.

Rubillar, 33, left Manila for Johannesburg via Hong Kong Saturday with manager Bebot Elorde and trainer Archer Villamor. The traveling party will run smack into World Cup fever but Elorde said soccer is farthest from Rubillar’s mind.

“Juanito knows this is his last chance,” said Elorde. “He’s been a pro for 16 years. If he doesn’t win the title now, I think he never will. He’s ready for Budler. He knows what to do.”

Rubillar lost a majority 12-round decision to Budler for the vacant IBO 108-pound championship in the same venue last Feb. 27. Two South African judges saw it for Budler and another scored it a draw in a highly controversial verdict that was widely criticized in media.

“(Budler) was gifted victory courtesy of the three South African judges, two of whom stretched the imagination beyond belief by calling Budler a winner while the third made it a draw,” wrote Boxing News’ Pete Moscardi who was at ringside. “This was just not a close call with Budler, the home favorite, being given the benefit of the doubt. It was a sad day for South African boxing.”

The media furor was so widespread that a week after the fight, promoter Shona McTaggart offered Rubillar a rematch. The purse will be $2,500 less than what Rubillar was paid in the first meeting and only three plane tickets were provided but Elorde said he can’t complain.

“We’re not in a position to demand,” said Elorde. “Budler is the champion now unlike in the first fight where the title was vacant. We don’t know who will be the referee and the judges. We’re just happy to get a second chance. We’ll do the best we can under the circumstances.”

Rubillar sparred over 180 rounds to prepare for the rematch with stablemates Sylvester Lopez, Ryan Bito and the Altarejos brothers. He wore out the tape of his fight against Budler, studying the South African’s style more thoroughly.

“Budler is a Jewish pastor so I told Juanito to pray harder,” said Elorde. “For two months, Juanito was out jogging at five in the morning then went to Mass at the St. Rita Chapel in Sucat. God will be on his side when he fights Budler. With God’s help, Juanito will come home a world champion.”

Rubillar will employ a two-fisted body attack to wear down Budler. He won’t let it go the distance.

“We don’t want to lose by another hometown decision,” said Elorde. “We’re going for a knockout. Juanito will try to end it early. The sooner, the better. We’re allergic to judges especially if they’re South African.”

Budler, 22, was only four years old when Rubillar turned pro in 1994. The Filipino challenger’s experience is overwhelming but youth is on Budler’s side. Rubillar has a record of 48-14-7, with 23 KOs, compared to Budler’s slate of 15-0, with five KOs.

It will be Rubillar’s sixth attempt to capture a world title after losing to Zolani Petelo for the IBF minimumweight crown in 1999, Jorge Arce for the WBC lightflyweight diadem in 2004, Edgar Sosa for the WBC lightflyweight belt in 2008, Giovanni Segura for the WBA lightflyweight championship last year and Budler for the vacant IBO lightflyweight throne.

Moscardi said he gave Rubillar every round starting the sixth in the first bout. “The pattern swung dramatically in the sixth as Budler was forced backwards to avoid the crushing punches being directed at his body,” said Moscardi. “He gamely tried to flurry back but looked in danger of being broken in half by Rubillar’s thunderous hooks to the midriff and rib cage. The decision looked a formality. Then the bombshell was dropped with Isaac Tshabalala scoring 114-114 and Lulama Mtya and Deon Dwarte having it 117-113 and 115-113 respectively for Budler.”

Budler has fought 12 of his 15 fights at the Emperor’s Palace so the venue is happy hunting grounds for the champion. Rubillar hopes to negate Budler’s hometown advantage by putting the pressure on the South African from the start and not letting up until the title is in the bag.

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