Last summer Terence Crawford issued a one-sided beating to Viktor Postol, the No. 2 fighter in the junior welterweight division at the time.
Crawford, the top dog, dropped Postol twice and won a lopsided decision to unify two 140-pound belts in a tremendous performance, the best so far in a brilliant career that has seen him win titles in two weight classes.
Crawford has what many predict will be a tough assignment against top contender Felix Diaz, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist from the Dominican Republic, on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York (HBO, 10:15 p.m. ET/PT). But a victory figures to pave the way to a more significant fight.
Expected to be ringside with a keen eye on the main event is the man with the other belts in the division, Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs), along with his promoter, Nestor Tobias of MTC Nestor Sunshine Promotions. If Crawford defeats Diaz, a unification fight with Indongo could happen later in the year, according to Crawford promoter Bob Arum.
Indongo, a 34-year-old southpaw from the African country of Namibia, may be largely unknown to the American boxing public, but he has proved himself to be a dangerous fighter in his past two bouts, in which he has collected the same number of junior welterweight belts that Crawford has.
In December 2016, Indongo knocked Eduard Troyanovsky out of the ring in the first round while on the road in Moscow to win one world title. Then, on April 15, he rolled to a unanimous decision against Ricky Burns, this time on the road in Scotland, to unify two titles. Now Indongo has made his way to New York, hunting for a four-belt unification fight, although a mandatory defense against Sergey Lipinets (12-0, 10 KOs) might get in the way. But Indongo could get an exception for the purposes of a unification bout.
There has been much discussion about Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) perhaps having to move up to welterweight to find a top opponent, such as Manny Pacquiao, but when asked recently who else besides Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs) is willing to fight at junior welterweight (140 pounds), Crawford quickly named Indongo.
When Crawford was asked whether he would be interested in further unifying the division if all goes well against Diaz, the American replied without hesitation, “Of course.”
Arum said he hopes he can hammer out a deal to make the unification bout.
“Indongo is coming to the [Diaz-Crawford] fight, and we will all talk to him when he comes to the fight,” Arum said. “If the kid wants to fight Terence, then that’s the time to talk to him. If he doesn’t want to fight Terence, then there is no sense talking. If the kid says he wants to fight Terence, and that’s the fight, then we’ll make it happen.
“He is a good fighter, this kid. That’s a guy that people haven’t heard of because he hasn’t fought in the United States, but our matchmakers say he is a damn good fighter and apparently looking forward [to fighting Crawford] down the line.”
Arum added that if Indongo wasn’t interested in a Crawford fight, he would not be coming to the fight.
Diaz, a 33-year-old southpaw, is taking the talk about a Crawford-Indongo fight in stride.
“I am definitely motivated that I am being overlooked and that I am the underdog. But I have my own plans. I am going to destroy Top Rank’s plans.”
Since the advent of the four-belt era in the late 1980s, all four belts have been on the line in a fight only three times — when Bernard Hopkins knocked out Oscar De La Hoya to unify all four middleweight titles in 2004; when Hopkins defended all of them in his next fight against Howard Eastman; and then when Hopkins lost all of them by decision to Jermain Taylor in the next fight. By the time Taylor faced Hopkins in an immediate rematch, one of the belts had been stripped because Taylor failed to make a mandatory defense in time.
If Crawford, 29, and Indongo can make a deal that keeps all four belts at stake “for people that think that’s important, that would be a great thing,” Arum said.
The history lesson intrigued Crawford.
“Well, I never kept track of how many people have ever had held all four titles, but it is one of my goals to say that I am undisputed champion,” Crawford said. “I watched the [Indongo-Burns] fight and he put on a great performance. He did what he had to do to get the job done. He’s tall and rangy and he can box. It would be a good fight.”
Although Crawford, of Omaha, Nebraska, sounds focused on Diaz, there has been much chatter among fans and media about potential fights for Crawford that would be an even bigger deal than a unification bout with Indongo.
“I disagree that there are not any fighters at 140 that want to fight,” Arum said. “[Lightweight titlist] Mikey Garcia keeps shooting his mouth off about going up to 140 to fight Terence. I mean, that’s a possibility.
“Again, if we put him in with Manny — Manny is a 147-pound champion, but Manny goes into the ring at 144 pounds, and to even go in the ring at 144 he has to eat about 5,000 calories a day, or more, when he is training, because Manny is not a big welterweight.”
On Saturday, Crawford will be making his fifth title defense, and he has heard his name linked to a possible fight with Pacquiao for the past couple of years, and has been asked about it time and again.
“Well, right now I am fighting at 140 and that is my main focus right now, and who knows what the future may hold,” Crawford said. “If I need to fight at 147, I’ll fight at 147, and if I need to fight at 140, I’ll fight at 140. Right now I am focused more on Felix Diaz than anything else. No question, Pacquiao is someone I would like to fight, but if it’s not in front of me, then I am really not worried about it.”
Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs), the Filipino legend, is scheduled to defend his welterweight title against Jeff Horn on July 2 in Brisbane, Australia, but Arum said a fight with Crawford is possible after that.
“Would Pacquiao and Crawford be a good fight, a big fight, a big attraction? You bet your ass it will, and we will, all things being equal, we will do our best to make that fight,” Arum said. “I think the public wants to see it and the public will support it. Manny Pacquiao has been a great fighter and a great attraction. I love Manny Pacquiao. Manny Pacquiao is the kind of guy who is not afraid to step up and fight anybody. Terence Crawford is the rising star in boxing.
“Everybody would love to see that fight, but that’s all I can say about it. I agree with your assessment, that it’s a fight that the fans want to see, and if it’s a fight that the fans want to see, a promoter has the obligation to make it happen.”