It will be an historic fight with the winner owning all of the meaningful hardware in boxing’s junior welterweight division. On August 19th at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln Nebraska, home state sensation Terence Crawford 31-0 (22), owner of the WBC and WBO world titles, will touch gloves with Namibia’s Julius Indongo 22-0 (11) who holds the WBA and IBF titles. Yes, this is a real unification fight in that Crawford and Indongo, titles aside, are no doubt the two best fighters in the junior welterweight division. The winner will become the first unified champ in the history of the 140-pound division. And if it is Crawford who wins, it’s doubtful he’ll defend the title since it’s widely acknowledged he’ll move up to campaign as a welterweight.
Crawford’s path to winning his two titles began in April of 2015 when he moved up from lightweight to stop Thomas Dulorme for the WBO belt. Then in July of 2016 he took apart the then undefeated WBC title holder Viktor Postal via a 12-round unanimous decision, thus stamping himself as the fighter to beat in the division. Indongo, who turned pro in 2009, traveled to Moscow in December of 2016 and knocked out undefeated IBF titlist Eduard Troyanovsky with one punch in the first round. He captured the WBA belt four months later, scoring a lopsided decision over Ricky Burns in Glasgow, Scotland.
Crawford, 29, and Indongo, 34, are both tall and rangy fighters with a long reach, with Indongo holding a slight edge in both categories. They’re both undefeated with Crawford holding the greater knockout win percentage, 71% to 50%. They have one common opponent in Ricky Burns. Crawford defeated Burns back in March of 2014 by unanimous decision (116-112 twice and 117-111). Indongo beat Burns via unanimous decision (120-108, 116-112 and 118-110) in his last bout this past April. I saw both guys fight Burns – Indongo beat Burns more handily, but Terence beat a better version of Burns. After losing to Crawford, Burns was beaten twice before he fought Indongo.
What makes Crawford-Indongo so compelling is their similarities in experience and physicality. And if Crawford chooses to fight as a southpaw on August 19th, they’ll share that as well. Indongo was under the boxing radar, even to many insiders, until he blasted out Troyanovsky in 40 seconds late last year. He picked up more momentum when, in the eyes of many observers, he won all 12 rounds against the always solid Ricky Burns. Due to his size and perceived power, Indongo is seen as a physical phenom with more than adequate skill.
In the other corner, Crawford is clearly among the top-5 pound-for-pound fighters in boxing and that may be an understatement. Since beating Dulorme a little over two years ago, Crawford has shown he’s not only skilled and versatile, capable of fighting anywhere in the ring against varying styles, but also a cold and calculated killer, in a boxing sense. With Indongo being portrayed as such a threat to him, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Crawford fights one of the best fights of his career to date — simply because Terence is one of those fighters that thrives when he’s challenged or doubted.
I’ve seen where many pundits believe Indongo’s size and physical presence are going to be an issue for Crawford, something I’m not on board with. Indongo is a very formidable opponent, even for a fighter the caliber of Terence Crawford, but I believe his size might work to his disadvantage and, on the flip side, be a plus for Crawford. Indongo from the waist up will provide Crawford a big target to punch at. There’s a lot of body for Indongo to try to hide and protect while he’s pushing the action, hoping to overwhelm Crawford in the process. Moreover, Indongo will probably be stymied from mid-range and on the inside, and if Crawford needs to buy time or wants a breather, Indongo will be that much easier to grab and clinch, thus putting the clamps on his offense.
Indongo is a fighter who usually does everything from his lead foot to set up his power shots. His offense is pretty vanilla with one gear and if that doesn’t break his opponent down, it’s doubtful he can change it up against Crawford. Indongo likes to load up and he is aggressive. He also tends to fight on his toes, and if you move away from him in a straight line, he’s dangerous. However, Crawford never goes straight back. I’ve also noticed that Indongo leans in when he goes to the body, which will leave him vulnerable to Crawford’s counter to the head which will be right there.
Many will get excited about Indongo’s prospects to beat Crawford, but I don’t see it. Crawford is the real deal and it’ll take more than a guy with some physicality and presumed power to overwhelm him. The way I see it – for three, maybe four, rounds — Indongo will force Crawford to plot and think, but Terence will crack the code and then better him at every turn. Once he’s locked and loaded on what he needs to do, he will methodically remove the bullets from Indongo’s guns. Once the fight has reached that point, the outcome will no longer be in question – only whether Crawford wins by stoppage or lopsided decision.
The lead-up to the bout will be great to look forward to. On the periphery they look evenly matched…….but they are in different leagues as fighters on the world stage. And come Sunday morning, August 20th 2017, it’ll be the worst kept secret in boxing.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com