One of the best things about being a fan of a particular sport is looking back at the historical moments you have seen. The ones that you know you will see replays and hear discussions about for the years to come.
As a boxing fan, given the health of the sport, it takes a while to find those really big events as they need to “marinate”. There’s promotional feuds, channel disputes and pay disagreements that can hold the biggest fights from occurring and that doesn’t include the fact that some fighters are advised not to take a risk to maximize the profits down the road. The fight game is more than just the fight itself but how to get the most money out of fighters themselves.
Owning a belt does not mean the same as it once did. There’s four major belts and then there’s a multitude of “lesser” belts that mostly signify “not the champion but the next guy”. So when you hear of title unification fights, you aren’t necessarily always seeing the “best vs. the best” but rather the “best” getting another belt or someone auctioning off their collateral for a cash out.
In a sport that prides itself on concussive blows that lead to potential despair, I don’t blame anyone. As someone who has never been in a ring before it seems pretty hilarious that I will call a person willing to put their life on the line, for entertainment purposes, “a coward”. Even those who postpone fights, do not earn that distinction.
Still, it does get tiring.
This past Saturday, however, we got to witness history. We got to see a true unification fight, for all the belts, on ESPN. Terence Crawford has owned the 140 pound division for quite a while. That should’ve never been in doubt, but the fact that Julius Indongo owned two other belts added at least some intrigue in a division with a King.
Indongo, who in the run-up to the fight has only displayed likable and hard-working tendencies, deserved this shot. He knocked out Eduard Troyanovsky (who, admittedly, I thought could at least possess some challenge to “Bud” Crawford) on his home turf and catapulted from “title contender” to owner. A mostly one-sided domination of the limited but tough Ricky Burns in his backyard added to the rapid rise of Indongo.
Yet, it just felt inevitable didn’t it? Maybe I didn’t think it would happen so quick, and I surely didn’t, but I almost had no doubt that Crawford would knock out Indongo in a similar way that he did against lesser heralded opponents in John Molina Jr. and Hank Lundy.
The main takeaways should be that Crawford is a historically brilliant fighter, and certainly at least in recent history. The second takeaway should be, that we cannot process Crawford’s domination at 140. Yes I know that Viktor Postol, Felix Diaz, Indongo, Burns and Ray Beltran have various flaws in their game. But never did all those flaws seem obvious until after the fight.
Diaz turned from Olympic medalist to looking like Ruslan Provodnikov without arms. Postol went from battering a wounded Lucas Matthyse to a tentative and sterile challenger. Indongo, whose wide shots always leaves room to be dissected, has legitimate power but it was nowhere to be seen. Let’s not forget the night Crawford might’ve ruined Yuriorkis Gamboa for good.
Owning all the belts, even in a watered-down world, is still a sign of greatness. It is easy to demean the opponents but when a fighter doesn’t even make worthy challengers look like they belong on the same planet….well, we have something better than great.
There is a fight with Mikey Garcia that could be fascinating but even though Garcia is a great fighter, it just doesn’t seem worth it. Let’s not forget the intrigue that would be Terence Crawford moving to welterweight, which should only add another wrinkle to one of the best divisions in the sport.
But let the future be the future. Let’s enjoy the fact that our present will soon become an incredible moment in our sport’s past.