Before the fight we knew very little about Julius “The Blue Machine” Indongo. The IBF title holder at 140lbs came into Saturday night’s unification bout with Ricky Burns as something of an unknown quantity.
Thirty-six minutes later he was leaving the ring with Burns’ WBA title after dominating the entire contest.
The fact the fight went the distance is testament to Burns’ determination not to quit as it was clear after eight rounds that there was no way back for the Scotsman against an opponent who controlled the pace of the contest and landed the harder blows throughout.
The judges returned scores of 120-108, 118-110 and 116-112 – my unofficial card of 118-110 included two rounds given to Burns almost out of mercy as I felt bad for my countryman being so clearly out-boxed in front of his home crowd.
Indongo, only boxing away from his native Namibia for the second time, showed his intention to set a fast pace and box on the front foot from the moment the fight began. An aggressive opening from the away fighter saw him peppering Burns with a good mix of shots to the head and body, Burns’ response in the opening stanza was to show caution and try and stay out of harms way. The early part of the fight continued in much the same fashion. Indongo with his size and reach advantage was able to box the way he wanted, land enough shots to give Burns a taste of his power and really take control of the centre of the ring. The Namibian’s awkward style would not be found in any boxing textbook but it was certainly effective as he launched shots at Burns from all kinds of high and low angles, shots the Scottish boxer had no defence for.
The nightmare start for Burns was underlined in round five when a left to the head really seemed to have Ricky shaken. Round six offered a glimmer of hope for Burns as he was finally able to get on the front foot and land some offense of his own but Indongo returned fire with more power and once again had Burns hurt towards the end of the session.
Throughout the first half of the fight I was impressed with Indongo’s dedication to attacking the body of his foe. For a man with the physical advantages he had it would’ve been tempting to spend the night head-hunting but he showed intelligence by remaining intent on targeting Burns’ torso on a regular basis. Although he was fighting at a fast pace the lack of return fire from Burns made it seem unlikely that the tall fighter from Africa would tire as the fight went late. Indeed with the body shots he had already absorbed it was Burns who faced the prospect of being out of gas first.
The second half of the fight passed by without any straws for Burns supporters to clutch at. I awarded Burns rounds seven and ten as in these two frames I though he enjoyed some rare success, timing Indongo on the way in and landing some nice punches in the exchanges that followed. At no point however was Indongo ever troubled by anything Burns landed and as suspected around the halfway point his stamina was holding up very well. The closing two rounds were dominated by Indongo as Burns really did look tired and was clearly just trying to hear the final bell. The final bell did sound and Indongo’s unanimous decision victory was quickly confirmed.
After the result was announced Indongo expressed his joy and Burns gracefully admitted the better man had won. With his size and superb conditioning it looks like Indongo will be capable of causing problems for all but the very best light-welterweight boxers in the world. It will be interesting to see if a fight between him and WBC/WBO title holder Terence Crawford can be put together so that one man can hold all four main belts in the division. As good as Indongo’s showing was last night it is still an almighty stretch to envision anything other than a handy Crawford victory should that fight take place.
As for Ricky Burns – he may well be at the end of the road in terms of world title encounters. The hard-working fighter now looks as though his main assets are his durability and determination. At the highest level this is not enough but there are plenty of options domestically for Burns if he wishes to continue punching for pay. A Scotland vs. England battle against Anthony Crolla (widely expected to move up to 140) would do well at the box office or an all Scottish showdown with fast rising Josh Taylor would certainly capture the imagination of fight fans here. Throughout his career Burns has dragged the very best out of himself time and again and made the most of his ability. He has nothing to be ashamed of and has brought some big nights and fantastic opponents such as Roman Martinez, Terence Crawford and now Julius Indongo to Scotland so fans here could see these fighters in person. Whatever direction Burns chooses next he will have the backing of the Scottish public.
The final word is on Indongo though. Congratulations to the newest unified world champion. It remains to be seen what path he takes now but one thing is for sure – wherever he goes the tall, rangy southpaw from Namibia will no longer be an unknown quantity.