In today’s boxing universe, true champions are woefully rare. Fighters are too often satisfied with collecting an alphabet-soup trinket and declaring themselves “world champions,” even if they have never defeated a true world-class opponent.
The great ones test themselves against the best available. That’s why Terence Crawford fought Viktor Postol in July 2016. Crawford was the WBO champion at 140 pounds and Postol held the WBC strap. But those belts were beside the point. Postol was fresh off from knocking out Lucas Matthysse. Crawford had completely dominated top contenders in two different divisions.
Postol and Crawford were clearly the two best super lightweight fighters on the planet. So when they faced off, a lot more was one the line than alphabet-soup hardware. Their fight was to establish the true champion at 140 pounds.
Crawford is now one of just four true world champions, along with light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson (who has disgracefully avoided Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, the two best pound-for-pound boxers in the world), middleweight champion Saul Alvarez and super bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux.
When Julius Indongo defeated Ricky Burns in Scotland last weekend, he unified the WBA and IBF straps at 140 pounds. Those who use language carelessly might call Indongo a “world champion,” even though he is no such thing.
However, Indongo’s collection of belts does now qualify him as the most compelling candidate out there for a fight with Crawford, so long as Crawford takes care of business against Felix Diaz in May. At this point, nobody but Postol deserves to rank ahead of Indongo at 140 pounds, and there is nothing particularly exciting about a rematch between Postol and Crawford.
Crawford and Indongo share a common opponent in Burns–both of them beat the Scotsman by wide margins, in front of his home crowd. Indongo actually won by wider margins on the card.
The two are an intriguing contrast in styles. Crawford is a cagey boxer-puncher who starts carefully but then finishes like a shark when he sees vulnerability. Indongo is a strong, awkward fighter who brawls with intelligence. His unpredictability could make him the toughest fight of Crawford’s career.