SAN DIEGO, August 18, 2017 – Since 2007, the definition of a true unified champion in professional boxing is any boxer who holds the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles from all major sanctioning organizations simultaneously.
Certain accomplishments in sports sit on such a high shelf, they aren’t often reached. In the modern “four belt” era of boxing, it’s happened only three times: twice in the middleweight division, first by Bernard Hopkins from 2001 – 2005, and then by Jermain Taylor for 18 months. In the women’s professional ranks, welterweight Cecelia Braekhus has been the unified champion since 2014.
Lightweights Terence “Bud” Crawford and Julius “The Blue Machine” Indongo will put their collective four titles on the line, winner take all on Saturday at the Pinnacle Bank Arena on ESPN, 10 pm ET/7 pm PT. Crawford currently holds the WBC and WBO titles; Indongo holds the WBA (Unified) and IBF titles.
Omaha native Crawford (31-0, 22 KOs) is among boxing’s best pound for pound fighters in the world today, a crafty, quick thinking switch hitter in the ring who can fight either as an orthodox or southpaw. He is patient and he has power to back up his intentions. He’s also got the sort of mean streak driving him to punish opponents to put his stamp on the outcome.
Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs) burst from Windhoek, Namibia to win his two world titles by taking them the hard way on his opponent’s home turf. First, he delivered the Knockout of the Year in December 2016 against Eduard Troyanovsky in Russia to earn the IBF title. In April, he followed up with a solid unanimous decision over WBA champion Ricky Burns in Scotland.
See the complete Sky Sports broadcast of Indongo’s first rough KO of Troyanovsky here.
Indongo isn’t particularly a knockout artist, but when he sees an opportunity he has the power to get it done. When international boxers hit the main stage after spending much of their career fighting an unknown level of talent, it’s difficult to judge how their skills will hold up.
So far, Indongo has been up to the task. But oddsmakers aren’t putting a lot of faith in Indongo, making Crawford as much as a 20 to 1 favorite. Indongo is far more dangerous and it’s never wise for a champion to take a challenger lightly. Crawford isn’t making this mistake.
“He’s a legitimate champion, he’s undefeated, he went over to Russia and Scotland and defeated both of their champions,” said Crawford. “He’s coming to Nebraska to try to do the same with me. That shows a lot about his character and confidence to try and come and take some titles. It’s going to make for a great fight.”
Indongo says it’s an opportunity in “the game of boxing” every wants, and he’s in position to win. “The preparation is 100 percent and there’s no doubt we are very focused and ready for this fight,” said Indongo.
“There’s nothing fancy to me. It’s a solid fight … I’m very quick, I’m very smart. I look easy from the outside, but when you come inside it’s something different.
“All I can say is this: I’ve been boxing for more than 17 years now. I’ve stayed mostly in my area, I’ve fought best of the best in my level. All I can say, maybe, I would be happy to see him standing for me and give a good night,” said Indongo.
If you haven’t seen or heard much about this fight, you aren’t alone. The entertainment event in Las Vegas on August 26 is diverting much of the attention away from Saturday’s history making matchup. Boxing purists and insiders recognize the significance of this fight as well as the potential for surprise, and are doing their best to spread the word.
Crawford understands the opportunity awaiting him in Lincoln is bigger than just another win. “It’s bigger than that, the history of the fight and the magnitude of the fighter. I won’t know (how it feels) until after the fight. Nothing compared to that first world title to me. It’s going to be something that I can’t explain. I’m ready for it.”
Indongo says he doesn’t want to disappoint fans. “Only God knows what is happening that night. Totally, I’m ready for the fight, that’s all I can say.”
Crawford has the ability to adjust in the ring to whatever he’s presented. Indongo is a tall southpaw with a long reach. He will be smart to establish distance, then dare Crawford to move in and strike inside when the opportunity presents itself. But he’ll need to be prepared or he will quickly become overwhelmed. Once Crawford decides to close the show, he crushes his opponents with a nonstop attack. We don’t really know how either man stands up to significant power punches; we are sure to find out on Saturday.
The fight is airing on ESPN and ESPN Deportes with solid undercard bouts, and the entire card is streaming live on the ESPN app starting at 6:30 pm ET/3:30 pm PT. It will cost fans nothing to tune in and check it out.
Saturday’s TV telecast opens with a light heavyweight contest between 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and rising star Oleksandr Gvozdyk of Kharkiv, Ukraine (13-0, 11 KOs) and Craig Baker (17-1, 13 KOs) of Baytown, Texas. Gvozdyk is ranked among the top five in a competitive light heavyweight division. Brown is riding a five knockout streak, but against limited competition. It’s not likely this bout will go the distance. Among the wave of Ukrainian fighters, Gvozdyk has been overshadowed by stablemates Vasyl Lomachenko and flashy cruiserweight Aleksandr Usyk. Gvozdyk continues to improve and impress, and his grasp of English is as impressive as his power punches. He won’t remain obscure for long.
Fans will also see American 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson (2-0, 1 KO) in his third professional fight, six rounds at featherweight against David Paz of Argentina (4-3-1). Stevenson has everything it takes to be a star: a crowd-pleasing style and a sparkling personality. He loves the limelight and it loves him back. He is still adjusting to the professional style and skill level. Fans need to be patient and enjoy watching his rise through the ranks.
On the streaming portion of the undercard, a pair of heavyweight bouts is worth your time and attention. American heavyweight Bryant Jennings of Denver (19-2, 10 KOs) returns to the ring to resurrect a once promising career against Daniel Martz (15-4-1, 12 KOs) of Clarksburg, West Virginia. Jennings gave Wladimir Klitschko a real challenge in his 2014 decision loss, then fell to Luis Ortiz in 2015. He will be warmly welcomed back to the division.
Britain’s Dilian Whyte (20-1, 15 KOs) makes his first appearance in the U.S. against Malcolm Tann of Chandler, Arizona (24-5, 13 KOs). It might seen like an odd fight for Whyte, whose single loss came to heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, but he’s also under the Matchroom Boxing banner along with Julius Indongo. It’s an ideal opportunity for him to acquire American fans who love the heavyweights.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. She is owner of the Falcon Valley Group based in San Diego, California. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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