Will a rewritten script grant Julius Indongo success?
On January 5, Lou DiBella officially announced that DiBella Entertainment signed a promotional pact with former IBF/WBA junior welterweight champion Julius Indongo. The Namibian fighter also changed managers before leaving his country for the United States, to give a boost to his career, in the hope of reaching further prestigious goals.
Tonight, in his debut under the guidance of DiBella, Indongo, 22-1 (11), will face unbeaten contender Regis Prograis in the main event of a card televised live on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/PT). The winner of this match-up will secure an interim WBC title at 140 pounds, as well as a possible shot at the winner of the bout between Amir Imam and Jose Ramirez, who will fight for the official green-and-gold belt, next weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
But is this really the path Julius Indongo was looking forward to taking, when he chose to switch stances and left his original team to chase the American Dream?
Indongo started boxing at age 18 and enjoyed a 120-bout amateur career that peaked at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Though the Windhoek native boxer turned pro the following year, fight fans first had a chance to see him seven years later when Indongo got a shot at IBF/IBO 140-pound champ Eduard Troyanovsky in Moscow, Russia.
The then-33-year-old Indongo was expected to fail against the power-punching Russian titlist but he refused to take that role, instead icing Troyanovsky with a left hook 40 seconds into the opening round.
The shocking victory made the African fighter the most wanted beltholder at junior welterweight. Other fighters started mentioning his name, as almost everyone thought of him as a cherry-picker, who pocketed the belts, thanks to a lucky punch.
The winner of the Indongo lottery turned out to be WBA champ Ricky Burns, who was planning to add further belts to his resume before a possible super-fight against former multi-division titleholder Adrien Broner. Burns’s reward, however, happened to be a whopping to the backside, as the Namibian boxer won a 12-round shut-out over him in Glasgow last April.
Indongo’s Cinderella story culminated in a unification fight for the undisputed championship against pound-for-pound ranked Terence Crawford last August in Lincoln, Nebraska, a bout won by the Omaha native in the form of a third round knockout.
The loss punctuated a highly successful run by Indongo, who left town the day after the fight. After a couple months of resting, his manager and promoter Nestor Tobias started to plan a well-structured return for his protégé.
After a scheduled December homecoming event in Namibia fell through, Tobias picked a date in March for a loaded card headlined by Indongo as part of the national Independence Week ceremonies for the country.
Indongo, however, quit his job at the police department in Windhoek, packed his bags and left Namibia without a word. Shortly afterward, DiBella Entertainment came out with the press release touting its signing of Indongo.
“I’m very happy for the opportunity to fight for DiBella Entertainment. I will make sure that I work hard in order to open doors for my fellow Namibians. It’s an unexpected dream that turned into reality. DiBella Entertainment, I’m thrilled to continue my career and achieve my goals with your promotional push,” said Indongo about his hopes working with his new handlers.
Fighting for an interim belt and for the right to challenge one of the major titles in a work-in-progress 140-pound division is definitely a direction Indongo had been dreaming of following, regarding his American journey.
The only question is if this is the right moment to take a fight of this caliber.
Regis Prograis is hungry contender with a skill-set as deep as a challenger can have. The 29-year-old is a confident fighter who likes to use his right jab as a range-finder to ultimately smoke his lethal left hands from his southpaw stance. He looks to be a patient practitioner, only until he hurts his opponents. When he smells blood, he switches to be a hunter seeking to shoot his wounded prey.
Prograis, 20-0 (17), is currently enjoying a five-bout knockout streak, while the combined record of his last six opponents is a nice-looking 116-13-4.
The Houston resident was last seen in action last June, when he demolished fellow unbeaten Joel Diaz Jr, putting his helpless foe down four times in a fatal round two, thus winning the get-go in under six minutes.
In an ideal world, this could be a first-class crossroads bout between a former champion and a blue-chip talent to see where they really are in their respective careers.
Timing, however, is everything in boxing and it seems to smother the hopes here for an even match-up.
First, Indongo has yet to taste leather in a prize ring since his demoralizing defeat to Crawford. A nice win or two cannot hurt the confidence of someone who just had to say goodbye to his “0.” Secondly, the African is a substitute, who took the fight on a 25-day notice, after Prograis’s original foe former WBC junior welterweight titleholder Viktor Postol suffered an injury.
“I’m very excited to fight Regis Prograis on March 9. This is a great opportunity for me toward becoming a world champion again. I know how good Prograis is but come March 9, I’ll be victorious,” stated the Namibian after signing up for the challenge.
This is how a fighter should think. He must believe he can beat a gloved-up King Kong down, once they step in the squared circle.
At the same time, the reason a team is behind a prizefighter is to look out for his best interests and tell him when the time is right to take a big challenge.
In fact, those people for Indongo are left behind in Namibia. He has probably yet to realize he is the massive B-side in this matchup, who is supposed to lose to a young and charismatic opponent with star potential.
Indongo, of course, has proved before that he can do the unexpected in his world title opportunities on foreign soil against Troyanovsky and Burns. A win over Prograis would be another huge underdog success story for him; more so, it would serve as evidence that rewriting the script of his journey in boxing could possibly be the right decision.
A loss, on the other hand, might be a rude awakening for the Namibian pugilist that living the American Dream is not as easy as it looks.
And it is even more difficult without people who look after him more than they look after the profit they can earn from his services.