Veteran Hekkie Budler scored an upset over Elwin Soto tonight in Mexicali, Mexico, winning by unanimous decision on scores of 114-113 from all three judges, meaning that a 12th round knockdown gave Budler the fight.
In all reality, Budler (34-4, 10 KO) simply won the bout, but the South African was the road fighter in Soto’s hometown, and boxing is what it is, which we all know very well.
The 34-year-old Budler is a former titlist at 105 and a longtime contender at both 105 and 108, but took a long break from the sport after a 2018 stoppage loss in Macau to Hiroto Kyoguchi, returning 13 months ago for a tune-up sort of win at home in Johannesburg. This fight was the real test to see if he’s “back,” and I’d say it’s clear that he is.
For the 25-year-old Soto (19-3, 13 KO), it’s a second straight loss. He dropped the WBO 108 lb title last October to Jonathan Gonzalez by split decision in Fresno, which had no business being a split decision, after making three successful defenses following his win over Angel “Tito” Acosta in 2019, a controversial 12th round stoppage in a fight he was losing on all three cards.
Soto has always felt sort of fluky as a result of how he won that belt, but he did make the three defenses, though his win over Edward Heno was also very close and could have gone either way, probably. In his last two, he’s just been out-boxed by superior technicians, and looked lost at times against both Gonzalez and Budler, unable to land much at all and getting popped with shots repeatedly.
The knockdown in round 12 here may be controversial to some, but it was a clean right hand where Soto had dipped low and sort of lost his own balance at the same time.
It’s a big win for Budler, puts him right back in the title mix at 108, and he may himself look to get a crack at Gonzalez’s WBO title, which “Bomba” retained on Friday in Florida with a win over Mark Anthony Barriga.