Nkosinathi Joyi.

The below-par performance of Nkosinathi “Mabere” Joyi when he defended his IBF world mini-flyweight crown in East London at the weekend has resulted in a flurry of fighters fancying their chances against him.

Joyi huffed and puffed to a unanimous decision over Japanese challenger Katsunari Takayama in a performance that raised doubts about his stature as the best pound for pound fighter in the country.

Although still undefeated in 23 fights with 15 stoppages, Joyi did not look the unstoppable monster of old but an old spent force even though he is only 29 years old.

The poor performance has been blamed on long spells of inactivity such as the 14 months Joyi spent idle since his first clash against Takayama was declared a no-contest following an accidental head-butt in the third round of their January 29, 2011 bout in Brakpan.

However, Joyi’s manager Siphatho Handi insisted that his charge suffered an injury in his left hand in the second round of the Takayama fight that affected his performance.

“Joyi hurt his hand in the second round and had to fight through pain,” Handi said.

After such a performance, Joyi’s compatriot and IBO mini-flyweight champion Hekkie Budler has publicly challenged the once feared southpaw champion into a unification clash.

Budler feels he has the style and technique to beat the East London-based champion should he agree to risk his IBF crown against him.

Joyi’s promoter, Branco Milenkovic, had promised to steer his charge towards unification fights against other champions in the division. However, there are only limited unifications Joyi could engage in as two other world champions such as WBC king Kazuto Ioka and WBA champion Akira Yaegashi hail from Japan where IBF champions are not recognised.

That is why Takayama only got the opportunity to challenge for the IBF title after he joined Philippines-based ALA Promotions of Michael Aldeguar.

Besides Budler, Joyi could only engage in another unification clash against WBO champion Moises Fuentes, who comes from Mexico, but he would need to be prepared to go to Mexico for such a fight.

Budler, 23, who has lost just once in 21 outings, is rated sixth for Joyi’s title and also commands lofty ratings in other world bodies such as the WBC and the WBO.

The whirlwind punching fighter, nicknamed “Hexecutioner”, says he is ready to provide Joyi with a unification clash. “I hear that he does not want to be subjected to long spells of inactivity,” Budler said through his promoter Rodney Berman. “Well, I can help him in that regard because I am free and available and I am also a world champion in his division so we can unify our world titles right here.”

Ironically, Budler holds the IBO crown that was stripped from Joyi when he opted to fight for the IBF title eliminator against Filipino Florante Condes on June 26, 2009.

Condes was scheduled to face Budler last month but mysteriously withdrew claiming that he had fallen out of a tree while training. - The Star