Who is the best boxing super-lightweight on Earth? We’re about to find out when Terence Crawford and Julius Indongo lock horns in a rare unification fight this weekend.
Adrian Clarke looks ahead to what could be a very special night in Nebraska…
Did you ever hear the tale about the Namibian policeman?
You know, the one who spent two years of his adult life on his sickbed with tuberculosis; fought one-handed at the Olympics; and then knocked out an unbeaten Russian world champion at Moscow’s Ice Palace within 40 seconds of his first ever fight outside his homeland?
Remarkably, the chances are you probably haven’t, but Julius Indongo’s story is an incredible one.
And if he were to beat the undisputed 140lb king, Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford, in front of his adoring Nebraskan fans this weekend – to unify the super-lightweight division – you can bet your bottom dollar a movie about this mysterious African will soon be in the offing.
His rise to prominence during the last nine months has ‘Hollywood’ written all over it.
The 34-year-old gets his shot at the formidable Crawford on the back of a ruthless shutout points success that wrenched Ricky Burns’ WBA belt away from the Scot just four months ago in Glasgow.
For the second time in a row, he silenced a vociferous home crowd
With a tall, rangy southpaw that is wild at times, Indongo boasts world-class footwork, a range of rapid angular punches, and a defence that Burns – an experienced campaigner – would have needed 40 or 50 rounds to figure out. It should come as no surprise, then, that Indongo has a flawless 22-0 record.
Oh, and a hammer of a left hand too.
Just ask Eduard Troyanovsky, the former world champion he knocked out cold at the Ice Palace in Round One.
But this is Terence Crawford we’re talking about. A pound-for-pound, ten-stone, giant.
So, in spite of Indongo’s obvious ability, you will get a healthy 8/1 with Grosvenor Sport on the Namibian copper taking home a full set of belts.
Put into context, Conor McGregor – a man that’s never been in a boxing ring – is rated 15/4 to overcome Hall of Fame superstar Floyd Mayweather. It doesn’t seem right.
The reason punters are steering clear of Indongo can only be based on a lack of knowledge, and that’s fair enough. We have only seen him in two world title fights, and that’s not a lot to go on.
In the other corner
However, what we’ve seen of Crawford (31-0) since he burst onto the world stage four years ago is almost flawless excellence.
He never looks like losing: he’s out-boxed all-comers. He’s putting on a show in the capital city of his home state, too. To most, the 1/20 feels perfectly normal.
The narrative says he’ll win too.
It’s seemingly set in stone that Crawford will cruise this fight, unify the weight class and then move up to welterweight for super-bouts against some of the biggest and best names on the planet.
On Saturday night, he will put a full stop on his spell as the super-lightweight supremo.
Personally, I’m not completely sold on that scenario
While I rate him highly, inside a boxing ring shocks do occasionally happen, so even if the American is a superior technician, he is yet to meet anybody as fiddly or dangerous as Indongo.
The African has knockout power, an unorthodox style and accomplished skills; which to me makes him a live contender.
Much will depend on the first few rounds. Terence Crawford is a notoriously slow starter, often choosing to deliberately warm up over the first few rounds. Against this type of challenger, however, that might be precarious.
Indongo could catch him cold with a knockdown, or steal a few rounds before the halfway mark – as Ricky Burns found to his cost.
I think this unification fight will be close; much closer than most boxing fans and bookies seem to think.
It wouldn’t shock me if the scorecards had them even.
We know that a lovely script is waiting to be written for the eventual winner. I just can’t be certain who’ll get the happy ending.
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