The War Report: Blue Train (Week 15, 2017)
Underdog stories are abundant in all sports but those in boxing have a more endearing quality to them. Maybe because they’re focused on an individual’s performance which, more often than not, have political influences outside the ring that hinder the underdog’s chances even more. While this may seem unfortunate and unfair, it’s the reality of the capitalistic landscape that is often described as corrupt. This past Saturday night in Glasgow, Scotland, Julius “Blue Machine” Indongo continued his narrative of being boxing’s latest underdog and, after beating the odds a second time in a row, now holds the unified WBA and IBF junior welterweight titles.
Fighting out of Windhoek, Namibia, Indongo, 22-0 (11), eagerly made his way to the ring at the SSE Hydro and, when his name was introduced, the 34-year-old still couldn’t wipe that smile off his face. He had already won in a sense. Five months ago, Indongo got himself in this situation with a shocking one-punch knockout of Eduard Troyanovsky in Moscow, Russia to win the IBF strap and, not only did his left hand produce a late candidate for “KO of the Year” in 2016 but the shot injected opportunity into a career that could’ve easily gone astray. Deferring from a hometown defense in his first attempt – a move so often justified in the sport – Indongo kept his ball rolling with a unification bout against Ricky Burns and little did the Scottish great know exactly what he got himself into.
In fact, not many knew what Indongo was all about. The 40 seconds of footage from that first round knockout of Troyanovsky was really all anyone had to put together for a scouting report of the southpaw. Once the fight began, Indongo wasted no time in showcasing the length he had through his jab and his follow-up left hand kept Burns wary to engage. Indongo didn’t let Burns get into any sort of rhythm with his constant attack and, for much of the first half, the “Rickster” circled the ring while getting stalked by the fearless Namibian.
Burns, 34, was always limited in terms of talent but his heart willed him to an above average career that has been adored by a consistent fan base. They tried to rally their Scot on with cheers, once the fight started looking like a blowout and, when Burns finally decided to try and trade with Indongo amid those cries, he got the raw deal out of just about every exchange. Burns just couldn’t close the gap and it was simply utter domination from Indongo, who had a cracking left hand that could seemingly find any target. No matter what the egregious 116-112 scorecard suggested, the 118-110 and 120-108 scores were a legit portrayal of Indongo’s unanimous decision victory to capture the unified titles.
A former titleholder in three different weight classes, Burns, 41-6-1 (14), has had more than one convenient decision go his way, in Scotland, but he conceded to Indongo’s authority afterward and proclaimed the better man won without any shame. “He was a lot better than what we thought he was going to be,” he admitted afterward.
“I feel very proud,” said Indongo immediately after the decision was read. He even recommended his hometown have a day off to commemorate his accomplishment. “This is so amazing,” he continued in English. “It’s for the whole of Africa. This is so great. I am very proud for opening my doors and now the world can see me.”
From Namibia to Russia to Scotland, the “Blue Machine” may be on track to the Western Hemisphere and into the United States – a dream of just about every fighter outside of it , no less, one from a place the average American couldn’t point out on a map. Indongo joins Terence Crawford (the WBC/WBO unified titleholder) as the sole controllers of the junior welterweight title quartet of recognized belts, and the Blue Train on which Indongo is riding could find itself in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Indongo will be an even bigger underdog against Crawford, should that fight be made to unify the entire division, but the Namibian will be smiling because he’s already won.