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Crawford fights Indongo on ESPN this Sat, hopes to broaden fan base

Terence Crawford

By Chris Williams: Light welterweight champion Terence Crawford fights Julius Indongo on Saturday night in front of what is expected to be a sellout crowd of 10,000 fans at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Crawford, 29, is from nearby Omaha, Nebraska, hence that’s the main reason for him to be fighting in that state instead of the more traditional big fight locations like Las Vegas, Nevada, California and New York. Crawford is able to draw in Nebraska, but he has a lot of work to do before he can pull in boxing fans outside of his home state.

Indongo, 34, has the punching power, size, reach and the boxing skills to beat Crawford. But for Indongo to win, he probably will need to knockout Crawford on Saturday night. The fight is taking place in front of a huge crowd of Crawford’s loyal boxing fans, it’s going to be incredibly tough for the visiting fighter Indongo to win a decision in that kind of atmosphere. I hope that Indongo has his eyes open for what’s in store for him when he gets inside the ring on Saturday night with Crawford. Indongo must recognize that his chances of winning a decision aren’t that good. He should be thinking knockout all the way. The good news for Indongo is Crawford doesn’t look when he takes a solid head shot. In his last fight, Crawford’s head snapped back each time he was hit by Felix Diaz. Crawford did not look good in taking hard shots from Diaz. It could be Crawford’s skinny neck muscles or the way he pulls straight back after throwing a punch. Whatever the case, Crawford doesn’t look at all good taking shots to the head. If Crawford faces someone that reach his chin for any length of time, I think he’ll get knocked out. Crawford’s ability to take punishment is very questionable. If Crawford has to take more than a round or two worth of punishment from Indongo on Saturday, I see him folding up quickly. Crawford will likely get on his bike after the first hard punch Indongo lands in the fight. Crawford will run for 12 rounds rather than fight if he’s not comfortable with Indongo’s power, which is what I expect Crawford to do. He’ll try and win ugly and get a likely controversial decision.

In theory, Crawford’s fight against Indongo will be seen by a lot of casual and hardcore boxing fans. We’ll have to see if that’s the case in reality. Just because Crawford-Indongo is being televised on ESPN and ESPN Deportes on Saturday night doesn’t mean it will pull in a lot of viewers. Fellow Top Rank fighter Vasyl Lomachenko’s recent fight against Miguel Marriaga was supposed to bring in huge ratings on ESPN, but it didn’t. The boxing public chose to tune that horrible fight out, perhaps due it being such a poor match-up.

Crawford wants to build up his fan base on ESPN, but his fight with Indongo might not be a big enough match-up to pull in enough casual boxing fans to do much for Crawford’s popularity. Indongo is not a household name in the U.S, and he likely never will be. For Crawford to show dramatic improvements in his fan base, he needs to quit stalling and move up to 147 already. Crawford can beat the likes of Indongo as much as he wants, but until he tests himself against the likes of Keith Thurman or Errol Spence, I think his fan base is not going to grow to any extent. Crawford also needs to fight in a lot more exciting manner. He moves too much, and he doesn’t mix it up. Crawford does eventually provide fireworks in his fights, but only after many often boring rounds filled with movement.

”It can broaden the fan base it will give more people the opportunity to see who Terence Crawford really is,” said Crawford. ”To display my talent and my skills to more people – I am just ready for Saturday to come so I can show more people who Terence Crawford really is.”

Crawford can increase his popularity a little bit against Indongo if he does the following:

– Press the fight to Indongo. Don’t run around the ring. Crawford uses too much movement in his fights, and it’s difficult on the eyes to watch the long periods of inactivity.

– Forget about the jab. Throw power punches instead. Crawford jabs too much, and it’s no exciting to watch.

– Don’t clinch constantly. If you saw Crawford’s fights against Raymundo Beltran and Ricky Burns, you’ll have noticed that he constantly held those fighters in clinches to keep them from throwing punches. If Crawford wants to increase his fan base, then he needs to make it exciting for the boxing public. Watching a fighter clinch nonstop for 12 rounds is very, very boring to watch. Crawford can obviously do what he wants, but if he plans on growing his fan base, then he needs to stop holding and running.

– Try not to taunt Indongo. Crawford should be professional, and not play games on the outside, taunting Indongo by showboating like we saw from him against Viktor Postol and Felix Diaz. Crawford built large leads in both of those fights, and then chose to taunt them by sticking his tongue out at them from the outside instead of trying to finish the show. You wouldn’t see stuff like that from middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. He doesn’t look to taunt his opponents when he’s ahead of them in the later rounds. Golovkin is always looking to please the fans by trying to knockout his opponents. Golovkin doesn’t waste time sticking his tongue out at the guys he’s fighting, and playing a game of keep away to preserve a win. Crawford doesn’t seem to realize that the boxing fans want to see knockouts, not taunting and running around the ring. Until Crawford changes his fighting style, I don’t see him becoming a huge star. Top Rank can put Crawford on ESPN for the remainder of his career, but I don’t see him becoming a star. Obviously, the idea behind Crawford fighting on ESPN is to make him popular enough to bring him over to pay-per-view so they can start charging boxing fans to pay to see his fights. It’s a good idea, but I don’t think it’s going to work with the way that Crawford fights now. He needs to dramatically change his fighting style to increase fans, and he also needs to move up to 147 and fight more recognizable fighters that the boxing public is familiar with. I doubt that many casual fans have ever heard of Indongo. It’s nice that he’s holding the IBF/WBA light welterweight titles, but it means nothing to the average casual boxing fan. ESPN’s commentators will certainly be stressing the point repeatedly to the viewers that Indongo is a two title world champion, but I don’t see it impressing them. The fans want to see Crawford fight the talented guys like Errol Spence and Keith Thurman. If he can’t or won’t do that, then he’s probably not going to become more popular. He’ll get older, but not more popular.

”Him being a two-time world champion in that short amount of time shows that he has a lot of confidence but at the same time he is a little older so he’s at the end of his career coming along so he doesn’t have a lot of choices for what he wants to do. He can’t wait around,” said Crawford about Indongo.

Indongo just won the IBF and WBA 140 lb. titles in his last 2 fights, and he’s fighting better than ever. Crawford says he’s at the end of his career. Is Crawford not paying attention to how good Indongo is looking? I’d like to think Crawford made that comment to try and unnerve Indongo to cause him to have self-doubt. By saying Indongo is at the end of his career at 34, then maybe he can plant a seed of doubt in his mind that will cause him to fight below his capabilities. I don’t think it’s going to work for Crawford. In looking at Indongo’s recent fights, I’d say that he’s at the same age as Crawford and fighting at the same level. Indongo looks a little younger than Crawford. Indongo seems to be aging really well. I think this guy could have another 7 to 10 years left in his career as a top fighter.

I see Crawford as having about the same amount of time left in his own career. The difference though is Crawford could meet failure when he moves up in weight to 147. He’s ambitious, but he might not have the frame to compete against the brutes at 147. Unlike the fighters that Crawford has been facing at 140, the top fighters a 147 can punch. Crawford has been rehydrating to close to 160 for his fights at light welterweight. That gives him a size advantage in fighting guys in the 140 lb. class. Once Crawford moves up to 147, that size and power advantage evaporates overnight. Crawford will no longer be the bigger and stronger guy. He’ll just be a finesse fighter, who will need to try and move as much as possible not get his head taken off by guys like Thurman and Spence. To be honest, I don’t see Crawford ever fighting those guys due to him being with Top Rank. If Crawford moves up to 147, he’ll finish his career fighting the guys that Top Rank does business with, and against guys from that stable. I do not see Crawford being able to fight Thurman and Spence. It’s too bad, but that’s how it goes in boxing.

Crawford vs. Indongo will be televised by ESPN and ESPN Deportes this Saturday on August 19. The fight card has a start time of 10:00 p.m. ET.

The co-feature bout is light heavyweight contender Oleksandr Gvozdyk (13-0, 11 KOs) fighting Craig Baker (17-1, 13 KOs) in a 10 round fight. It’s a showcase fight for the 30-year-old Gvozdyk and not one that is expected to be competitive. The little known Baker isn’t rated in the top 15 by any of the sanctioning bodies, which is why this is a showcase [aka mismatch] type of fight.

”I am trying to get my name out there and trying to get the recognition that I deserve. I’m still young and in my prime,” said Crawford. ”We’ll see how the fight goes and after that double back around and see what the next move will be.”

My advice for Crawford to become more popular is for him to move up in weight if he gets past Indongo on Saturday. If Crawford stays at 140, he’ll be defending his 4 titles against fighters like Ricky Burns, Rances Barthlelemy, Kiryl Relikh, Antonio Orozco, Amir Imam, Regis Prograis and Jason Pagara. Crawford is not going to become more popular beating those guys. He needs to move up to 147 and fight whoever his promoters at Top Rank can match him again. This means Crawford could possibly fight Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn in the near future. Unfortunately, I’m not even sure that Crawford will be able to get fights against either of those guys, even though he’s in the same Top Rank stable. Crawford’s fighting style and lack of popularity will make it easy for Horn and Pacquiao to ignore him. Most likely, if Crawford moves up to 147, he’ll spend the next few years fighting these guys:

Konstantin Ponomarev

Carlos Ocampo

Bradley Skeete

Taras Shelestyuk

Gary Corcoran

Lucas Matthysse

In other words, I see Crawford picking up the WBO welterweight title and defending it against the fighters in the World Boxing Organization’s top 15 rankings. If Top Rank is able or willing to try and make a fight between Crawford and Thurman or Spence, then it’s possible he could fight one or both of those guys. I doubt it though. I can’t see those fights ever happening without Crawford becoming a star and without Top Rank blessing those match-ups.

Crawford wants to be the No.1 pound for pound fighter in boxing. While it would be nice for Crawford to be received that recognition from Ring Magazine, I don’t think it will translate to increased popularity. Casual boxing fans don’t keep up with pound for pound ratings. They don’t care about that. In my opinion, pound for pound is for hardcore fans only and there aren’t enough of those types of fans that can help Crawford become more popular if he’s pushed to the No.1 spot in the rankings.

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