The Thin Blue Line — Terence Crawford vs. Julius Indongo

By Gleb Kuzin

Ed Mulholland / HBO

For the first time in ten years an absolute champion will be crowned, yet Terence Crawford remains on edge, ready to fall down at any given moment.

Since winning his first title against Ricky Burns, Terence Crawford has exclusively fought world-class opposition. His fight against Yuriorkis Gamboa catapulted him to stardom and marked the first milestone of the P4P boxer’s career. Crawford eventually moved up to 140, won his second world title, unified the division, and now continues to defend his titles against the toughest competition available. And yet the fans are getting bored.

His latest foe, Felix Diaz, was unanimously recognized as a top-3 Junior Welterweight and the best fight available for Crawford at that moment in time (Indongo was already scheduled to face Ricky Burns in Scotland). Despite these circumstances, the odds did not recognize Diaz as a worthy match: most bookies set Crawford as a stunning 20-to-1 favorite. TC lived up to those odds, dominating Diaz with ease, even mocking and humiliating his undermatched opponent at times during their bout. The fight produced solid ratings on HBO — just a little north of one million, however ticket sales for the event were anemic and the mood of the audience fell flat.

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Despite Arum’s attempts to bring the excitement to TC’s fights — matching him with aggressive fighters(John Molina), trying to manufacture rivalries (Hank Lundy) and even going to Al Haymon’s stable for a highly skilled Olympian (Felix Diaz) — Terence remained ice-cold in and out of the ring. He won each of the fights in his signature manner — establishing range and rhythm, breaking his opponents down with counterpunches and then brutally finishing them off. Terence Crawford continues his line, fighting the fight he knows best.

Crawford simply does not give casual fans what they want — and they shouldn’t demand it because he delivered Fight Of The Year excitement against Yuriorkis Gamboa. Boxing fans should be thankful for being able to watch a high level craftsman, a competitor and mean motherfucker beat up on his rivals twice a year. That said, there’s plenty of room for Bob Arum to help Crawford’s cause. To start with, he can stop trying to sell TC as something he’s not. TC doesn’t need to apologize for failing to stop Viktor Postol, or for selling so few PPV buys for that fight. Terence Crawford fought a great fight, dominated the boogieman, and at the end of the fight looked like he could could do 12 more.

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In the meantime, Julius Indongo might just do the trick. He has one attribute Crawford’s last three opponents lacked: mystery. He is a southpaw, he has knockout power, and he also possesses unorthodox Namibian boxing skills of a quality commensurate with the two world titles he possesses. Being the former policeman and a nice guy, no one expects him to talk his way in. He’s gonna try and prove his worth with his knuckles, not his mouth. Mix everything together and we get a thrilling matchup, Crawford’s first since Gamboa.

The match with Indongo is a step forward, a truly meaningful fight for Crawford. Not just because of the unification, but because of what his opponent has achieved in the ring. From an unknown African vagabond brought in as a stay-busy opponent for Eduard Troyanovsky, Julius Indongo has now established himself as a highly respected unified champion over the course of just two fights. At this point of his career, his limits are unknown — and this is his most important quality — we can debate his age, his speed and pedigree, but we can’t be sure of his ceiling as he has never been pushed to his limits. “The Blue Machine” has everything needed to become Terence Crawford’s salvation, even if he doesn’t end up delivering in the actual fight. Because to be exciting, the world’s best require only one thing — to be questioned.

As the odds and the ratings show, fans are growing tired of Terence Crawford doing what is expected of him — it’s up to his opponents to bring new challenges to TC, and to his promoter — get them to fight Terence. Whether it’s size, unorthodox boxing skills, or untested talents — these fights must happen at 147. Julius Indongo marks a first step forward for “Bud” and he must proceed quickly. At 29 years of age, TC has burned all of his his “free bum fight” tickets. Today Terence Crawford must fight not to just prove his pedigree, but to break new boundaries.

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