Monday, August 21, 2017

Crawford-Indongo: Before and After

A conversation between Debbie Crawford, Terence's mother, and Julius Indongo's brother at the hotel lobby the night before the big fight:

DC  (strutting over to Team Indongo with a cigarette in hand): You're getting knocked out tomorrow. It's either going to be the 5th or the 7th. I haven't made up my mind yet. 
IB  (amused): Come here, Momma. After we win tomorrow night we will all be good friends. 
DC  (pointing the cigarette in his face): No you're getting knocked out.
IB:  No, we knock you out. 
DC: We're sending you back to Africa with an ass whooping. 
IB:  We win Africa style. 
DC: What is that? Some voodoo shit? 
[Team Indongo laughs]
DC (leaving):  The fifth round!

It was like that all weekend. Sequestered in the same fight hotel, the members of Crawford's team and extended family crossed paths with Team Indongo constantly. They were a table away from each other at the bar, waiting for transportation, walking through the hotel lobby. The good-natured jowling featured some hilarious exchanges. 

Team Indongo, wearing royal blue track suits throughout the week, were confident, prideful and joyous. Indongo's assistant trainer assured me that the best version of Indongo would come out for Saturday. The team was making the most of its time in America, truly cognizant of how special and wild their ride had been over the past 12 months. Prior to December, Indongo had never fought outside of Namibia as a professional. But in the last whirlwind year the team had ventured far away to Russia, Scotland and now the U.S. Should Indongo beat Crawford, he'd go from an anonymous African fighter to one of three undisputed champs in the four-belt era in less than a year.  

Each night a few of the team members relaxed on a bench outside of the hotel, soaking up the Omaha humidity and smiling upon their good fortune. There, a number of Crawford's friends and supporters would wander over and stand near them. They'd exchange boasts but often they were just enjoying each other's company. The Indongo camp was all smiles; it was tough even for Crawford's fans to remain hostile towards them.  

Former lightweight champion Paulus Moses, a fellow Namibian and chief sparring partner for Indongo during this camp, was far more measured in his prediction for the fight. Talking after the weigh-in on Friday, he smiled, as all of his countrymen did during fight week, but moments of realism crept in. 

"It's going to be a tough fight," he said to me. "We had a great camp. Julius looks very good...But Crawford is a challenge. The way he switches up. He's very smart in the ring. He's tricky."   


Photo courtesy of Mikey Williams/Top Rank

"That shit was easy! That shit was so damn easy!" Brian McIntyre, Crawford's co-trainer, screamed at the top of his lungs as he was shaking up a beer in the arena parking lot after the fight. Moments earlier, Crawford scored the signature moment of his career, a lethal two-punch combination to the body that ended the fight in the third round. Crawford now had all four major belts at junior welterweight, the only current undisputed champion in boxing.  

"He had no legs." McIntyre exclaimed as he imitated a punch-drunk fighter doing the chicken dance after being hit. The small crowd around his truck started to laugh. "He can't fight going backwards. As soon as we hit the body, it was done."

McIntyre yelled every statement with a mixture of elation and a sense of pride from a job well done. But McIntyre's exuberance shouldn't be confused with over-confidence. Team Crawford had painstakingly prepared for Indongo. Crawford's stunning knockout wasn't due to luck or chance: it was a surgical strike that was able to manifest after countless hours in the gym.

Here's Crawford during his post-fight press conference:

"We worked on body shots all throughout camp. It's something that we knew we would be able to catch him with in that he swings so wild. We were going to punch in-between his punches and that is what got us to the victory tonight."


Back at the hotel in Omaha, a raucous celebration was underway in the lobby. Members from all of the fight camps on the card reveled (or, depending on the night's outcome for them, commiserated) in their beers. Team Indongo (although not Julius) held court at one of the tables at the bar, their heads held up high. Dozens of fight fans and personnel came to them with well-wishes and asked about Julius' condition. Team Indongo displayed the same grace and good-natured attitude that they had all fight week. Their smiles were still emblazoned on their faces. They knew that they had lost to an elite fighter; they understood that they were part of a special moment in boxing. 

Early Sunday morning on the top floor of the hotel, members of Team Indongo were grabbing a few cans of soda from the Sheraton lounge, preparing for their departure. Julius walked through the corridor. His eyes were a little bloodshot. Perhaps he was a little downtrodden but otherwise he was perfectly functional. He talked with some members of his team. There was no anger on negativity expressed by Julius or any members of his camp. 

Around 10:30, Crawford was ready to depart with his family. Parents, siblings, children and friends were walking through the parking lot. Terence looked sharp with a button-down shirt and jeans. He didn't appear to be marked up at all. He smiled as he directed family logistics in the parking lot. Despite living in Omaha, Terence insisted that his team and his family stay at the fight hotel during the weekend. He loaded up his shiny Chevy Silverado and the three-car caravan was off.

Bob Arum sat down at the table next to me for breakfast. The restaurant was nearly empty and he was talking quietly with a colleague. I went over to him and congratulated him on Terence's victory. "Let me tell you about that performance. That's what a superstar does. It was a superstar performance."

After almost all of the fight personnel had left, I had some time to kill in the hotel lobby. What had been a rollicking scene throughout the fight weekend had returned to its normal, non-descript corporate state. I spotted Red Spikes, one of Crawford's assistant trainers, on the couch watching TV. We exchanged pleasantries and started talking about the fight. 

"To be honest, I wasn't concerned about Indongo," he said. "I was a little bit concerned about Postol, Gamboa and even Dulorme, but I wasn't worried about Indongo at all. He was too wide with his shots. We knew that Terence couldn't pull straight back and he had to attack in angles. But other than that, we knew we were going to win." 

The conversation turned to what's next for Crawford. I asked Red whether Crawford was going to move up to 147 and Red acknowledged that Terence will be moving up sooner rather than later. They had had a tough camp and the weight didn't come off easily for Terence. Spikes also talked about their preparation for the fight. 

Even though Team Crawford has become excellent at breaking down their opponents and getting their fighter ready for battle, they're not too proud to admit that there are some aspects of training that they need to outsource. They now have a nutritionist who prepares all of Crawford's meals as fights get closer. After trial-and-error, they've found Colorado Springs to be the ideal training environment for them. 

Yes, Team Crawford likes to have fun but boxing to them is a serious business. They've been enjoying the ride and the bigger checks but they know that distractions are what bring fighters down. Terence and his team aren't saints; they know that. But this recently anonymous and low-profile group of guys from Nebraska has instilled a professionalism that defines their efforts. Only as a team, with everyone pulling his or her weight, will they accomplish their goals. 

Terence Crawford is in the middle of a run of greatness. His team knows that they have one of the best fighters in the sport. Spikes told me that he thought Crawford was special as far back as 2003 or 2004 in the amateurs. 

However, there are tougher challenges ahead. Big fights await at 147. Hopefully in the next 12-18 months, Crawford can face titlists such as Keith Thurman or Errol Spence. Team Crawford has studied the potential opponents at 147. They respect these fighters, but they certainly like their chances, and they're itching for the opportunities to prove themselves on even grander stages.     

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of 
He's a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.  

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