The War Report: Unite (Week 32, 2017)

WBC/WBO junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford (left) and IBF/WBA counterpart Julius Indongo. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

 

Somehow, some way, Julius Indongo found himself in Los Angeles, roaming the Microsoft Theater stage in a way that reflected the journey of his past eight months. The unified IBF and WBA junior welterweight titleholder had already been in L.A. a few days to finish training camp in the United States but. two weeks away from his unified championship match with WBC/WBO champion Terence Crawford, he was ultimately there to take part in a live interview on ESPN to promote the fight. He and his team stood around for awhile once arriving, largely unbothered by the American media, but focused on the early undercard fights at hand in the ring. Once they saw him welcomed, introduced and paraded around by the Top Rank brass, the media eventually put two and two together that the African in the white leather jacket was indeed the “Blue Machine.” However, to no avail, their scramble to get a video interview with him was unusually tempered.

 

The fights went on and Indongo eventually found himself a seat at ringside. He was alone but having endured a 26-hour trek earlier in the week, and having already had a workout or two at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, the 34-year-old’s legs could use the rest. Even when there wasn’t a fight in the ring, Indongo remained there alone, quietly gazing at the fighting beams of light, during the downtime of a card, succumb to the meticulous timing of a televised broadcast. Eventually, Indongo was tapped on the shoulder by an usher asking him for a ticket he didn’t have. A couple of his handlers scrambled to find him a seat as he found a wall to lean on but, soon enough, his live interview was nearing and there was a director’s chair waiting for him there, not to mention Crawford was seated right next to it. The interview happened and Indongo was finally guided to the ringside seat intended for him but not before being waved down by UCNLive.com on press row.

 

“So, the trip went well,” Indongo said about the trip from Windhoek, Namibia, which had a layover in Amsterdam. “I reach America very well. There was not even any tightness on the way because I was in the business class. I rested well all along my way. Just was very nice. I appreciate.”

 

Traveling has never been a problem for Indongo and it has been a big part his narrative leading up to August 19. On December 3, 2016, he went to Moscow, Russia, and swiftly upset Eduard Troyanovsky in 40 seconds with one left hand.

 

 

“It was like something I never expected,” Indongo recalled about the upset. Even for the diehard boxing observer, it was an explosive introduction for Indongo and seeing only a handful of men celebrate in an arena stunned silent is something only boxing can provide. Indongo could’ve easily taken his newly-won IBF title home in order to string along a mandatory defense or two but, rather than return to anonymity, he kept his name relevant by quickly making a unification fight with WBA beltholder Ricky Burns.

 

“Actually, when I got the offer for Ricky Burns, I was very happy,” said Indongo, who couldn’t hide that emotion when entering the ring that evening, last April, in Glasgow, Scotland. “I follow all the famous boxers in the world and Burns  –  I know his boxing style. He fights and holds and, me, I’m not a fighter that holds. I’m an Olympic-style boxer. There’s no way he can catch me. There’s no other way he can fight with me by holding. So I knew, if he don’t knock me down, then he will not beat me. That’s what I knew. I knew he will not beat me.”

 

Evidently, what fueled the emotions of the smiling African was his own cognizance of the situation. Indongo went on to easily outbox Burns to a unanimous decision win and, over the course of 12 rounds, displayed an ability to box from the outside while showing extraordinary range from the southpaw stance. This was the true introduction of what Indongo brought to the ring and, by perhaps exceeding expectations, the rowdy Scottish crowd fell silent by the middle of the fight and Indongo agreed that he was underestimated, saying the media thought he won in Moscow with a lucky punch. That didn’t keep him from being unsure as the scores were read, however, and, after not getting the hint from the ring announcer, he rejoiced once he heard his name before taking part in an overjoyed interview.

 

 

Lincoln, Nebraska will be the next stop for Indongo, where, at the Pinnacle Bank Arena, this Saturday night, he will put his unified IBF and WBA junior welterweight titles up against Crawford’s WBC and WBO belts in a rare, complete unification of the 140-pound class. The championship will be televised live on ESPN (10:00 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT) and Indongo agreed that occasions such as this, in which fighters are willing to quickly unify their belts, should happen more often.

 

“It can happen but it’s not easy because it’s very rare to find promoters giving away their boxers to unify. I encourage this to happen again. Not taking such a while, like every 11 years,” said Indongo, who signed with the U.K.-based Matchroom Boxing after the Burns win. In the current four-belt era that began in the late-1980s, this will only be the fourth time all the belts will be on the line and it hasn’t happened since Jermain Taylor won a split decision over Bernard Hopkins in 2005, at middleweight. Without a doubt, Crawford, 31-0 (22), will be Indongo’s toughest test to date and the 29-year-old seems to be nearing the peak of his prime, looking unstoppable, as of late.

 

“What I saw in the previous fights, (Crawford)’s always dangerous when you let him come on the inside,” said Indongo. “This going to be a good fight. All along, since I’ve started boxing, I’ve never experienced someone beating me clearly, where I can see that I lost.” His last official loss came in the first round of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Representing his country was enough of an accomplishment for Indongo and Namibia is where his career was cultivated, starting in 2009. Even then, Indongo’s fate was a bit of a jumble, saying that in his pro debut, someone else made up the nickname of “Blue Machine,” when filling out a form for the announcer. He didn’t have one at the time but kept it ever since and, in his recent run  –  one that will continue in the proverbial blue corner for the third time in a row  –  it could be an incredible accident, come Saturday.

 

Indongo, 22-0 (11), laughed at the idea of a movie being made about him, should he beat Crawford but didn’t exactly think it was a bad one. As for whom would play him in a film, Indongo didn’t want to go that far ahead of himself but one thing is for sure: You can expect him to approach the ring in the same semblance he’s had throughout this entire drama and that plays into his performance.

 

“I have a smile because it’s a way we are uniting together,” he explained. “I don’t take sport other way around, like with hate and other stuff. I consider it a commodity, where we are coming together to unite. So whenever I go in the ring, I don’t feel angry or aggressive because that can also affect your preparation. I always stick with my plan. That’s the best I do  –  I don’t take pressure on myself; otherwise you don’t perform. So yeah, that’s why you see me going to the ring smiling.”

 

 

Please click here to continue reading The War Report: Unite (Week 32, 2017).

 

 

You can reach Michael Baca II at mikebaca2@gmail.com and follow him at twitter.com/mikebaca2.

 

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