Friday, August 25, 2017

Will Crawford Set His Sights On Welterweight?

On August 19th the Boxing world focused its attention on the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, NE to see a moment  in  Boxing history take place. A Jr. Welterweight unification bout between undefeated world champions Terrence Crawford and Julius Indongo. In an era where there are multiple sanctioning organizations and where unification bouts occur periodically, what made this particular bout stand out was a true rarity in the sport for this was the first unification bout throughout all of Boxing since September of 2004 to determine an “Undisputed World Champion.”

The encounter was also special as it also marked the first time that there would be one “Undisputed World Champion” in the modern era of the sport in the historically talent deep 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division. Terrence Crawford, the undefeated two-division world champion is certainly no stranger to big fights that could define one’s career after previously holding the WBO Lightweight world championship and unifying the WBO and WBC world championships as a 140lb. Jr. Welterweight and in the process established himself as the division’s central figure.

Although being the central figure of a weight class theoretically puts a fighter in a position of being able to garner lucrative fights and puts that fighter in the spotlight of a division, it is not always the case that a fighter in that position will be able to secure marquee bouts against fighters who are considered the top fighters in the sport. After all, Crawford was thought to be a potential opponent for future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao for a period of time, but that fight did not materialize.

This put Crawford in a position of needing a marquee opponent. Enter Julius Indongo. Indongo established himself as a player in the Jr. Welterweight division with a devastating one punch first round knockout over IBF/IBO Jr. Welterweight world champion Eduard Troyanovsky in December of last year. Indongo followed that victory by adding the WBA Jr. Welterweight crown to his unified world championship with a dominant twelve round unanimous decision over multi-division world champion Ricky Burns in April of this year.

Although much of the main spotlight of the sport has been focused away from the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division, this created a scenario that Boxing fans clamor for. Two undefeated world champions, the only two world champions in a division, putting their respective crowns on the line to determine an “Undisputed World Champion.” Despite the encounter between Crawford and Indongo appearing as though it might have been an evenly matched bout between two boxer/punchers, Crawford made quick work of Indongo dropping him once in the second round with a right hand that landed behind the ear and finished him off with a flush left hook to the body in round three that sent Indongo down for the count.

Crawford had clearly proven to not only be the central figure of the Jr. Welterweight division, but the one and only champion. What was also noticeably absent from this unification bout to determine an “Undisputed World Champion” as compared to some others in the history of the sport was an element of controversy. This was about two world champions pitting their skills against each other where one fighter simply bested the other. Something that should be viewed as refreshing for the sport. It was however, not without an element of the politics of the sport as the International Boxing Organization (IBO) opted to strip Julius Indongo of its Jr. Welterweight world championship in the days before the fight. This does not change the fact that Terrence Crawford emerged from this fight as the one and only Jr. Welterweight world champion.

What remains unclear as of this writing will be what will become of the IBO portion of the World Jr. Welterweight championship. We are probably not going to get an idea of what may happen until it becomes clear what Terrence Crawford will do next.

One option for Crawford could be for him to remain as a Jr. Welterweight where one might assume the IBO could recognize him as it’s world champion in the division and in the process eliminate any questions of the sanctioning organization’s validity as Crawford did knock out the man who previously held the IBO crown and did so in decisive fashion.  The other and perhaps more likely possibility seeing as Crawford has for the moment cleaned out the Jr. Welterweight division is for him to turn his attention to the 147lb. Welterweight division where like many previous Jr. Welterweight world champions before him have moved up in weight to seek further world championships and more lucrative paydays.

This observer believes if Crawford does indeed choose to venture to the Welterweight division that a likely option will be for him to be an opponent for the winner of a potential rematch between newly crowned WBO Welterweight world champion Jeff Horn and future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao. If Crawford is done as a Jr. Welterweight, the obvious question will be who will emerge as the next central figure of the division? With five world championships in the division in play it is illogical to assume that all the sanctioning organizations including the IBO will be able to agree on one fight between two top contenders to determine a new “Undisputed world champion.”

As has been the case over the years when an “Undisputed champion” has either moved out of a division for other opportunities or lost their championship without being defeated in the ring, if Crawford does vacate his crown it will leave the Jr. Welterweight division wide open.  A likely scenario, which if it does indeed happen will almost certainly mean that there will not be an “Undisputed world champion” in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division for some time. It will however, create some interesting possibilities that for Boxing fans watch and debate as they occur. We will have to wait and see what is next for both Terrence Crawford and the Jr. Welterweight division.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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