For Julius Indongo, the good side has finally shown up
This report is courtesy of special guest contributor Tamas Pradarics.
There are countries where boxing is far from getting a fair shake by their governments. In those places, promoters have two options: They can abandon their professions and find another job to earn a living. They can also choose to invest loads of money to build their fighters in the ranks and then sell them in title fights abroad.
Namibia is a country without commercial TV channels. There is only one nationally-funded sports broadcaster that constantly refuses to put boxing on its programming. Promoters do not have enough money to pay to get their shows televised. That leaves boxing events untouched by the national broadcaster.
This is the reason why Julius Indongo, 22-0, (11), was a totally unknown challenger by fight fans when he traveled to Moscow last December to face then undefeated IBF junior welterweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky. Indongo had fought 20 times prior to his first shot at a major world title yet there was not a single official fight tape available of his bouts that took place in his home country.
”It’s difficult staging meaningful fights in Namibia. We have a main sponsor in Mobile Telecommunications Company, who has graciously been supporting us to put up exciting fights but we do not have TV rights and, in the absence of such revenues, we can unfortunately not stage important fights in Namibia and that is the sad reality,” Indongo’s manager and promoter Nestor Tobias told UCNlive.com.
To be able to compete in above-average matchups, Tobias needed to transform his business method that also brought a new perspective for his stable of fighters.
“We are willing to fight anybody, anytime and anywhere, because we have a philosophy: When any of our fighters steps into the ring, it’s only him and the opponent. Nothing or nobody else matters.”
Indongo’s name first appeared in the IBF rankings last November at No. 15. Less than a month later, the Namibian southpaw found himself on a plane heading to Moscow, Russia, to take on reigning titlist Troyanovsky. Nobody knew who Indongo was before the first bell. The boxing world, however, had to memorize his name 40 seconds later, after Julius mauled the Russian beltholder with a single counter left hook in one of the shortest world championship fights ever.
With the IBF and IBO belts around his waist, Indongo felt ready to step up to the next level. He got an offer to unify against WBA beltholder Ricky Burns, last April.
Again, he took a plane, this time to Glasgow, Scotland. The circumstances were the same. The stakes, however, were higher.
”We knew we had to put up a convincing performance because leaving it to the judges can sometimes be very tricky, when you fight abroad. We fought Burns before when Paulus Moses was challenging him for the WBO lightweight title. It was a close fight and they gave it to Burns. We respected that decision. This time around, the plan was to dominate every round and go hard on Ricky with everything we have got, body punches, combinations (so that we leave nothing to chance),” remembered Tobias.
Next to the officials, the Namibian team also had to handle the horde of proud Scottish fight fans.
”Yes, there was a hostile crowd indeed but we did not come to fight the crowd; we came to fight Burns and that is all that mattered. We silenced the crowd in Russia and we did it again in Scotland but what a fair crowd they were! Most of them greeted me after the fight and graciously accepted defeat and that is what you want to see,” Indongo recounts his memories about that April night in Glasgow.
There were not really other options there for the fans, as Julius won basically every single round against the faded former three-division champ Burns.
Now Indongo holds the IBF/IBO/WBA belts, while, on the other pole of the 140-pound division is fellow undefeated, THE RING Magazine/WBC/WBO unified champion Terence Crawford, 31-0, (22). The fight between the two seemed to be inevitable. Top Rank was open to stage it in the United States on behalf of Crawford. Tobias – who also has the help of powerful British promoter Eddie Hearn, serving as co-promoter of the Namibian fighter, since the Burns encounter – on behalf of Indongo, was just doing what he was always forced to do. He brought his fighter to the away field one more time.
Crawford and Indongo are scheduled to meet tonight at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. Their historic undisputed junior welterweight scrap will be televised live on ESPN (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
To get fully prepared for this huge opportunity, Indongo had to pause his day job in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, where he serves as a policeman. To the question, if he was going to quit his job if he became the first undisputed champion in more than a decade, Julius had a firm and straight answer.
”Everything I do in life comes from passion, so being a police officer is one of them. I am very happy to assist the government in developing our beautiful country. I am a world champion right now and still happy to be a police officer and I will continue being one after I win the undisputed world championship,” said the African pugilist.
Indongo picked up the sport at age 18 and had an eight-year career with 120 bouts in the unpaid ranks, concluded at the 2008 Olympics. He considers representing his country at Beijing as the proudest moment of his amateur career and an experience he will never forget. In fact, believing in dreams and manifesting them in reality seems to be a habit for him.
”To become a boxer, for me, was already a dream. When I won my first professional fight, it was a big dream. When I collected my first Namibian national title, another one of my dreams came true. Winning the WBO Africa title and defending it six times was also an important achievement. When I won the IBF and IBO titles and became a champion, it was the next dream that came true. And after I went to Scotland to unify my titles with WBA champion Ricky Burns, another one of my dreams switched to real. And this is no different with my next fight that is also going to be a dream-come-true kind of experience to become an undisputed world champion,” said the 34-year-old.
Indongo had a long journey – both physically and spiritually – leading up to his opportunity to face one of the Top 5 pound-for-pound fighters on the planet in Crawford. He traveled through Amsterdam and then Los Angeles to reach Nebraska where he is in for the biggest challenge of an unbelievable eight-month, three-bout series of world title fights.
”I have two lovely daughters and a son. Their love means everything to me. I also have a huge Namibian boxing family that has supported me all these years,” said Julius, referring to those with whom he would like to share the joy earned in his incredible run in the sport.
It seems the unfortunate and tough circumstances in Namibia that made Indongo unable to return home to defend his unexpectedly collected world title belts ultimately culminated in an opportunity to be a part of one of the most important boxing events of the year.
They say with every bad thing, there is a good side. For Indongo, the good side has shown up in multiple world title belts around his waist. Obviously not completely satisfied, he is seeking more and would gladly share the good with everyone.
”I am going there to win it for my country and Africa and also to prove to the world that it does not matter where you come from; you always have a chance to become the best in the world.”