Terence “Bud” Crawford (left) and Julius Indongo (right) pose with their belts during the final press conference before their bout on Saturday.
Terence “Bud” Crawford (left) and Julius Indongo (right) pose with their belts during the final press conference before their bout on Saturday.

August 18, 2017

Omaha

Before this year, Namibian professional boxer Julius Indongo never imagined that he would have a chance to make boxing history.

After years of success on his home continent, the undefeated and unknown 140-pound fighter burst onto the mainstream boxing scene in December 2016 after traveling to Moscow, Russia and dispatching the then-undefeated International Boxing Federation (IBF) and International Boxing Organization (IBO) champion Eduard Troyanovsky.

Indongo knocked Troyanovsky out after 40 seconds in the first round.

Four months later, Indongo would travel to Glasgow, Scotland to defend his titles against World Boxing Association (WBA) champion Ricky Burns - defeating Burns in a one-sided unanimous decision.

On Thursday afternoon in Omaha, Indongo sits on a stage under a spotlight in front of a giant blue and red poster bearing his name. He shares the stage with 4 other fighters that will share a ring with him in a few days. His three belts rest beneath his feet on the edge of the stage.

“We have prepared for this historic fight,” Indongo said to an audience composed of media and team members. “I just appreciate the opportunity because there are many people that want to get such an opportunity.”

On Saturday, Indongo (22-0, 12 KOs) will be fighting to unify all four of the major championship belts of the 140 pound weight class, which would make him the first undisputed champion in boxing since Jermain Taylor defeated middleweight legend Bernard Hopkins for undisputed status in 2005.

Despite having unified two major world championship belts in an a short time, Indongo will be entering the ring an underdog come Saturday night, as he will have to defeat an undefeated pound-for-pound ranked Omaha native in Terence “Bud” Crawford (31-0, 22 KOs).

“My amateur career has taken me all around the world,” Indongo said. “I can’t predict what’s to come, but the man up above knows who will be the great one Saturday night.”

Crawford is widely recognized as one of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He is ranked the best fighter at 140 by The Ring Magazine. He is a two-weight world champion who has held the unified World Boxing Council (WBC), World Boxing Organization (WBO), Ring magazine and lineal light welterweight titles since 2016.

Crawford and Indongo share an opponent in Ricky Burns. Crawford traveled to Scotland in 2014 and defeated Burns to take the WBO lightweight title. Since then, Crawford has been on a mission to clean out the division . His resume includes wins over Olympic gold medalists Yuriorkis Gamboa and Felix Diaz - the later occurring at the end of May.

“(This fight) is history,” Crawford said. “I want to be labeled as the man that had all four of the belts in my home state Nebraska. It means a lot to me being that a lot of people don’t believe good talent comes from Omaha. I’ve been proving them wrong ever since I came on the scene of boxing.”

Crawford’s promotional company, Top Rank, hosted the final press conference for the fight on Thursday afternoon. Saturday night’s televised fight schedule will include three feature bouts from the super featherweight, light heavyweight and light welterweight divisions.

Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson (2-0, 1 KO) will try to maintain his momentum against Argentinian fighter David Paz (4-3-1, 0 KOs). Stevenson, a New Jersey native, made his pro debut against Edgar Brito in April. The fight was stopped in the fifth round due to a cut on Brito’s head that appeared after he intentionally head-butted Stevenson in round 3, costing Brito a point. Stevenson received the technical decision victory.

Stevenson would fight again in May against Carlos Suarez. Stevenson won the bout after 2 minutes and 35 seconds into the first round, earning him the first TKO of his career.

The co-main event will feature Ukrainian North American Boxing Federation (NABF) champion Oleskandr Gvozdyk (13-0) in a light heavyweight bout against Baytown, Texas native Craig Baker (17-1, 13 KOs). Baker will be coming into fight an underdog against Gvozdyk, having been stopped last year by contender Edwin Rodriguez.

“I get a kick out of proving people wrong,” Baker said. “I’m grateful for this tremendous opportunity and I plan to put on a show.”

Gvozdyk is certainly making a name for himself in the light heavyweight division, having stopped his last seven opponents. Saturday’s fight card will be Gvozdyk’s first outing on a worldwide broadcast.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Gvozdyk said. “I was in the Olympic games as an amateur. This is regular stuff to me.”

Gvozdyk won a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics. He said that he will be using the Baker fight to develop himself for a potential shot at one of the major titles.

“Every opponent is dangerous because it’s boxing,” Gvozdyk said. “Maybe (Baker’s)  previous opponents underestimated him, and he knocked them out. I don’t want to make the same decision.”

Top Rank promoter Todd duBoef called Saturday’s main event a unique occurrence. He said that the globalization of boxing often makes it difficult to unify world titles.

“Because of the size of the sport and its globalization, the titles are held on to and cherished,” duBoef said. “These guys are heroes to their country. They’re heroes to their fan base. And, therefore, there’s big business for them. That makes it very difficult.”

Crawford said that his future at 140 is uncertain. He has expressed interest in moving up to the 147 pound weight class and fighting the number one ranked unified champion Keith Thurman, but that likely wouldn’t happen if he were to lose on Saturday.

The historic fight card takes place Saturday, August 19 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.