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Milan Melindo to defend junior flyweight belt vs. Hekkie Budler

Junior flyweight world titleholder Milan Melindo will make his first defense when he faces former strawweight titlist Hekkie Budler, ALA Promotions has announced.

Melindo and Budler will square off Sept. 16 at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino in Cebu City, Philippines, Melindo's home country.

On May 21 in Tokyo, Melindo (36-2, 13 KOs) scored a stunning first-round knockout of Akira Yaegashi to win a 108-pound world title in Melindo's third shot at a world title.

Now Melindo, 29, is returning home to defend the belt against Budler (31-2, 10 KOs) of South Africa, the 29-year-old who is moving up one weight class for opportunity.

"I feel no pressure for this fight. No matter how many fights he's had, he's never fought anyone like me," Melindo said. "I want to advise him not to put his guard down, because then I might give him the first KO defeat of his career. I already fought some of the best world champions in the world, including Juan Francisco Estrada, so [Budler] is no threat to me. I have a lot of confidence because God is with me. We're gonna fight in my territory, where I will run the show, and I promise an impressive win."

Melindo has had a Sept. 16 date scheduled for the past month, but was unsure of his opponent. He has already been training, according to trainer Edito Villamor.

"We've started training as early as three weeks ago, and Milan's always in perfect condition, so it's all systems go for us," he said. "We're looking forward to welcoming Team Budler in September."

Budler won a vacant strawweight world title in 2014 and made four successful defenses before losing a close decision -- 115-113 on all three scorecards -- and the title to Byron Rojas in a big upset in March 2016.

Budler then moved up to junior flyweight and won two fights in a row before getting the offer to face Melindo.

"This is great news. Melindo is a very good fighter, probably the best opponent I will have faced," Budler said. "Going on the road doesn't faze me. I'll fight anywhere. I'm sure the Filipinos will watch my fights; they're all over YouTube. But I'll change up a few things and do what I'm best at."

Budler's trainer, Colin Nathan, said, "I'm so upbeat about this fight. It was heartbreaking to narrowly lose the WBA belt last year. All we wanted was the opportunity to make things right. We put Hekkie's name forward, and although he's not the mandatory, we were honored to get the call. Do we want to risk it all? Yes! We're going to Melindo's home turf, but it's a very winnable fight. The odds are against us, but we're going to win. Hekkie has fought in hostile territory before, but he's mature enough, and good enough, to win. He must bring his A-game and it's my job to ensure that happens."

Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman, who represents Budler, said he is happy to get his man such a big opportunity.

"Melindo's people obviously believe in their guy, but Hekkie is an unbelievable boxer," Berman said. "This is more than just a major fight. It's an opportunity to cement his legacy as a multiple-belt titleholder. It's going to be an excellent match, a real treat for the fans. I'm delighted we could do this deal."