by Cliff Rold
Now we have a fight at 140 lbs.
To be fair, we have more than one. We have three, and all of them are pretty interesting. World champion and WBC/WBO unified titlist Terence Crawford has a defense on tap in May against former Olympian Felix Diaz, a one loss fighter who should probably be undefeated. Newly unified WBA/IBF/IBO titlist Julius Indongo has a serious mandatory looming with Sergey Lipinets.
Most significantly, there is the possibility of a five-belt unification showdown now. Crawford-Indongo went from a fight no one would have thought about a year ago to the battle for divisional supremacy in just five short months. That’s all it took for Indongo to leave his native Namibia for Russia and Scotland, picking up two title belts in his first two title fights.
Before we wonder about his chances at a road trip hat trick…
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Indongo B; Burns B/Post: B+; B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Indongo B; Burns B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Indongo B; Burns B/Post: A; C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Indongo B; Burns B/Post: A; B
Some of last Saturday might be chalked up to miles on the tires. While the pick was Burns from this corner, it was partly a product of not knowing exactly what Indongo had to offer. There just wasn’t that full a picture of him outside a knockout win of Eduard Troyanovsky that ran contrary to his career statistics. Burns has lost a serious step and could never catch up to the longer, quicker Indongo.
So that might be some of it.
Now we know more about Indongo though and it’s certainly not all. Burns has lost before. He’s never lost every second of every round of a fight. That two judges gave him rounds were charitable. The judge gave him four is as head scratching as it gets.
Indongo used all of his height and length to befuddle Burns from the start. His jab was crisp and accurate. He went to the body efficiently. His lanky southpaw left found its mark over the top repeatedly. Indongo boxed almost perfectly on the night, controlling the distance and keeping Burns on the outside, wary of his power.
The Namibian might not be the killer puncher he was for a night in his first title win against Troyanovsky. He’s got the sort of pop that creates enough caution to bank rounds. The composure he showed was impressive. Winning a title on the road isn’t easy. To win a pair of them, two fights in a row, says a lot about Indongo’s focus and professionalism.
While Burns will likely fight on, this might be the end of his time in the title scene. It was more than a little serendipitous that he ended up with a belt at Jr. welterweight. Burns got the right foe, at the right time, with the right vacant belt. He still delivered in the ring to get it done. He did a lot of that in his career.
While he may not be headed into the annals of fistic greats, Burns is the sort of fighter who makes boxing fun. He has been an overachiever who occasionally gives us a classic and provides a solid barometer of which foes might have a little something extra (Terence Crawford for instance) and which are going to fall a little short (rival Kevin Mitchell comes to mind).
While Indongo still doesn’t have the name value in the US to be a tip of the tongue opponent for Crawford, he has the fistic credentials now to make that the showdown of the moment. Both men have two belts. Crawford is the lineal king and would remain a strong favorite.
Odds aren’t destiny.
Right now, destiny isn’t shining on the fights Crawford covets. Manny Pacquiao isn’t looking for him. His affiliation with Top Rank would make entry into the title ranks at welterweight difficult without that fight. What better way for he, and Indongo, to make their case for bigger names and paydays than against each other?
It’s one thing to be history’s champion. It’s another thing to have cleaned up all the hardware to clean out a weight class. If there is a way to see it happen, and Crawford gets by Diaz, let’s hope we see it.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2017: 9-7
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com