Saturday in Glasgow, Ricky Burns will face Julius Indongo, in what is being billed as a world title bout. It is no such thing. Burns does hold the WBA trinket at 140 pounds and Indongo has the IBF version. But those belts are worth no more than the tin, leather and rhinestone sacrificed to make them.
Burns claimed the vacant WBA title when he stopped non-entity Michele Di Rocco in May 2016. Indongo won his strap with a stunning, Round 1 KO of Eduard Troyanovsky last December. Troyanovsky had won the vacant IBF belt by defeating Cesar Rene Cuenca, a opponet who had recorded exactly two knockouts in nearly 50 professional bouts.
In other words, the lineages of both these titles have about as much depth as a conversation between the Kardashian sisters.
The real world champion at 140 pounds is Terence Crawford. Anybody who really follows the sport knows this. He holds the WBO and WBC titles, but that is inconsequential. He is the champion by virtue of having defeated Viktor Postol last July, at a time when both men were universally rated No. 1 and No. 2.
Still, Burns vs. Indongo is a terrific matchup. The winner will clearly deserve to be ranked in the top five. Both men could reasonably be placed in the top five right now.
Burns has held belts in three divisions now. I hate to hear anybody refer to him as a “three-division world champion” because that suggests he deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as somebody like Henry Armstrong. He most emphatically does not.
But he has spent time over the past decade as one of the better fighters in the world in three different divisions. That’s impressive. He deserves nothing but the highest respect from boxing fans.
Indongo is a new face. He was virtually unknown prior to his quick stoppage of Troyanovsky. It was a very good win, though, and shows he is a force to be taken seriously.
Burns has already lost to Crawford, at 135 pounds. He fared better against the champ than most opponents, but it was not a very close fight and I doubt there would be much demand for a rematch, outside of Scotland.
If Indongo wins, it is a different matter. He will have two impressive, back-to-back wins and the other two remaining belts in the division. A fight between him and Crawford would have rare historical significance–the winner would not only be the true champion, but would also hold all the various alphabet hardware. I can’t even remember the last time we saw that in boxing.