By Keith Idec
Regis Progais won’t make the mistake of overlooking Julius Indongo based on the result of Indongo’s last fight.
From Prograis’ standpoint, there’s no shame in losing to Terence Crawford because Crawford clearly is one of the best boxers in the world. When Indongo opposes Prograis on Friday night in Deadwood, South Dakota, he will fight for the first time since Crawford knocked him with a body shot in the third round of their super lightweight title unification fight August 19.
“As far as the Crawford fight, he’s pound-for-pound, it depends on whose list, the No. 1 or No. 2 fighter in the world,” Prograis told BoxingScene.com. “So you can’t really look at that as being too bad on your record. He still has a good resume. He had two belts. I feel like he’s a good fighter, a former two-time world champion. I’m just ready to prove that I belong in there with somebody like that.”
Namibia’s Indongo (22-1, 11 KOs) is the most accomplished opponent Prograis will have fought during his six-year pro career. The tall southpaw owned the IBF, IBO and WBA 140-pound championships prior to Crawford defeating him.
Before suffering his first professional loss to Crawford, Indongo had recorded back-to-back impressive victories over Russia’s Eduard Troyanovsky (27-1, 24 KOs), then the IBF/IBO 140-pound champion, and Scotland’s Ricky Burns (41-7-1, 14 KOs), who owned the WBA title at that time.
Indongo needed just one punch and 40 seconds to knock off Troyanovsky 15 months ago in Moscow. In his following fight, Indongo out-boxed Burns convincingly to win a 12-round unanimous decision April 15 in Glasgow.
Crawford was just too much for him when they met in Lincoln, Nebraska, though.
The undefeated Crawford connected with a perfectly placed left hand to the right side of Indongo’s body around the midway mark of the third round. Referee Jack Reiss counted out Indongo, who was flat on his back, writhing in pain.
Prior to finishing Indongo, Crawford dropped the former champion by landing a left hand to the side of Indongo’s head with less than a minute to go in the second round. A stunned Indogo got to his feet as Reiss’ count reached eight and survived until the bell sounded to end the second round.
“What happened to him?,” Prograis said regarding Indongo’s defeat. “Crawford – that’s what happened to him. If somebody’s just better than you, they’re better than you. He caught him with a good body shot, and he stopped him with a body shot.”
Indongo didn’t hesitate to accept another difficult fight against Prograis, whose original opponent, former WBC champ Viktor Postol, pulled out due to a thumb injury. Taking it on three weeks’ notice and not having a fight since Crawford knocked him out didn’t deter Indongo, either.
It helped, of course, that his fight against Prograis will be contested for the WBC’s interim 140-pound title (Showtime; 10 p.m. ET).
“The loss to Crawford did not affect me,” Indongo said. “Losing is a part of boxing. I took my loss like a pro and I am emotionally past it. [Friday] night I will have a fresh start and will show that I am a better fighter because of it.
“I’m not going to change too much from my last fight just because I lost. I am going to keep my own style and just fine-tune a few details that I have to work on in order to win the fight.”
The 29-year-old Prograis (20-0, 17 KOs), a strong southpaw from New Orleans, figures Indongo will take a different defensive approach to their fight following his loss to Crawford.
Prograis admits, though, that he hasn’t studied Indongo closely because he doesn’t examine footage of any of his opponents.
“The first time I heard about him, I think it was when he knocked out [Troyanovsky] in his hometown,” Prograis said. “You can’t really look at that too much because he knocked him out in the first round with a long left hand. Then he beat Ricky Burns. I didn’t watch that fight. I just know he’s a southpaw.
“He has deceptive power and he’s very long, and he’s very awkward. So sometimes it may look bad, but awkward fighters are definitely hard to fight. That could explain him being a two-time former world champion. He is awkward and his punches come from different angles. That can be hard to pick up on. Without studying him, that’s what I see.”
When he encounters Indongo, Prograis will fight for the first time since his spectacular second-round demolition of Joel Diaz Jr. on June 9 in Verona, New York. Prograis dropped the previously undefeated Diaz (23-1, 19 KOs) four times during the second round, before their scheduled 10-rounder was stopped at Turning Stone Resort Casino.
“Regis is a tough fighter,” Indongo said. “The credit he has gotten, he deserves. He is tough, resilient and gritty, and we expect all of those things [Friday] night. We expect a very tough, competitive fight. But I am very confident in my own abilities.”
The Prograis-Indongo winner will face whoever wins the Jose Ramirez-Amir Imam match March 17 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. The top-rated Imam (21-1, 18 KOs), of Albany, New York, and the third-ranked Ramirez (21-0, 16 KOs), of Avenal, California, are scheduled to fight for the unclaimed WBC 140-pound championship Crawford vacated when he moved up to welterweight last year.
Showtime will broadcast Prograis-Indongo as the main event of a special edition of its “ShoBox: The New Generation” series from Deadwood Mountain Grand.
“I feel like he’s hungry, also,” Prograis said of Indongo. “He got knocked out by Crawford early, so he wants to prove that he’s still there, or that it was a fluke or whatever. And I wanna prove that I belong up there. So you have two fighters with something to prove, and we’re both southpaws. I don’t know if he has a lot of knockout power. His record doesn’t show that he has a lot of knockout power, but my record does. I feel like it’s definitely gonna be a good fight. I can’t wait.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.