Saturday night, August 19th, the eyes of the boxing world were upon the state of Nebraska and its favorite son, Terence Crawford, who seized the moment, the spotlight and shined like the undeniable Pugilistic star he is. “Top Rank Boxing on ESPN” broadcast live from Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, NE., as Crawford became the one and only champion of the world at 140 pounds, with a masterful 3rd round knockout of formerly undefeated, unified Jr. welterweight titlist, Julius Indongo.
Since the mid to late 90’s, there’s been four recognized “champions” per weight class (WBC, WBA, IBF and more recently, the WBO), and Crawford-Indongo marked the fourth fight in boxing history for that quartet of belts; the first since Jermain Taylor’s split decision win over Bernard Hopkins, in 2005, for the middleweight titles.
A proud Nebraskan, Crawford (32-0, 23 KO’s) rocked a Cornhusker football jersey during his pre-fight warm-ups and intimate ring-walk, which took him thru the concourse and second level fan seating area, amongst the crowd of over 12,000, as opposed to the spacious and customary floor level path to the squared circle. Indongo (22-1 12 KO’s), nicknamed “Blue Machine”, wore his colors proudly into the Nebraska “Sea of Red”, like a ballsy gang banger in enemy territory. Nonetheless, his fate was equally doomed.
A natural righty, Crawford began the fight in southpaw stance. Indongo, himself a southpaw, seemed a tad puzzled and didn’t come out as aggressively as was the case in his previous championship fights. In fact, there was little to none of the southpaw jabs Indongo previously used to find openings for his powerful looping left hand. Before long, Indongo started leading with those wide lefts and was met with counters, first a Crawford left hook, which made Indongo retreat, then a right hook near the end of round 1.
Crawford maintained southpaw posture in the 2nd and was busier with his right jab. Indongo managed to sneak in his bread and butter punch, but to no effect. As is usually the case when hit, “Bud” sought immediate retribution. During an exchange, he connected with a right hook to the body, followed by another, which Indongo clearly didn’t like. Terence smelled blood, attacked, and dropped Indongo with a left cross high on the head, as he attempted to duck out of the way of further punishment. The shot to the dome rattled Indongo’s equilibrium a bit, and he moved, held and hurled desperation shots until the bell saved him.
A brave, tough African warrior, Indongo tried to set an aggressive tone at the outset of the 3rd, defiant ,unconvinced, and prepared to go down swinging. Crawford was patient as ever, jabbing, moving his head and blocking shots with his gloves. Out of nowhere, Indongo leaned in, missed a southpaw 1-2 and was drilled with a counter left hook to the body, which left him on the canvas, writhing in pain, clutching the right side of his torso. Referee Jack Reiss completed the 10-count at 1:38 seconds of the round.
Make no mistake, this was a statement win for “Bud” Crawford. Indongo brought an Olympic pedigree, two world titles, the confidence of having won championships in his opponent’s backyard, and a size advantage to the table. Regardless, Crawford dismantled and dismissed him like a bothersome insect.
The little boy that took up boxing at 7 and was a 2008 U.S. Olympic alternate (with amateur wins over the likes of Mikey and Danny Garcia) has done good for himself as a pro. Undefeated, former WBO lightweight champion, 2014 “Fighter of the Year”, undisputed Jr. welterweight champion. The avenues are aplenty for Crawford, who turns 30 next month.
There’s talk of the weight cut to 140 pounds getting tougher, so an obvious next avenue would be the winner of the WBO 147-pound rematch between new champion, Jeff Horn, and Manny Pacquaio. But they fight in November, once again in Australia, which means Crawford wouldn’t see the winner until early 2018, if he’s lucky. Keeping things in-house, the only other easy, big fight, pay-per-view option would be Vasyl Lomachenko, which doesn’t seem realistic in hindsight, given the size discrepancy. Beyond that, Lomachenko’s dangerously close to inking a December date with lower-weight legend, Guillermo Rigondeaux, at 130.
The more attractive, legacy defining road for Crawford is clearly towards welterweight, and he all but verbally guaranteed he’d be moving up in weight, as the boxing broadcast bled into ESPN’s Sportscenter. Problem is, manager, Al Haymon, and his “Premier Boxing Champions” stable, virtually owns the division. Keith Thurman has the WBC and WBA straps at 147, with Errol Spence representing the IBF, both Haymon fighters. “Bud” would be heavily favored over the Horn-Pacquiao victor and eventual unification would not only be a no-brainer, but a must! But the working relationship between Haymon and Top Rank promoter, Bob Arum, would have to dramatically improve first.
Nebraska isn’t known for its seafood, but the boxing world has unequivocally become its native son’s oyster. And Terence “Bud” Crawford’s looking to dine for a while.