By Jake Donovan
With his win over Julius Indongo in their 140-pound unification clash two weeks ago, Terence Crawford became just the third boxer in history to simultaneously own all four titles in one weight division.
The unbeaten two-division world champion from Omaha, Neb. made history just 12 days later, though for all of the wrong reasons.
The International Boxing Federation (IBF) was notified by Crawford’s camp on August 31 that the reigning super lightweight king was relinquishing their portion of the crown. The vacancy now makes his four-belt reign the shortest ever, although he still remains in possession of the World Boxing Council (WBC), World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) titles—though it remains to be seen for how long.
Whatever his decision, the IBF has already begun the process of taking the next step toward filling the super lightweight void.
“Jr. Welterweight Champion Terence Crawford officially vacated the IBF Title (on Thursday),” IBF spokesperson Jeanette Salazar confirmed in a statement released through the New Jersey-based sanctioning body’s press office. “The leading available contenders according to the current list of IBF Jr. Welterweight rankings are #1, Sergei Lipinets and #3, Akihiro Kondo. Both boxers have indicated in writing they are willing to participate in the fight for the vacant IBF Jr. Welterweight title.”
Lipinets (12-0, 10KOs) was the mandatory challenger waiting in the wings, although the unbeaten Kazakhstani boxer was forced to wait out two unification bouts. He sat by as Indongo was granted what was supposed to be a one-time exception to bypass his mandatory title defense in favor of a unification bout with Ricky Burns, whom he outpointed in April to add the WBA title to his collection.
The IBF ordered a showdown between Indongo and Lipinets soon thereafter, but negotiations were non-existent as they were compromised by a vocal interest from the Crawford camp in unifying all four titles. Indongo and his co-promoter Eddie Hearn attempted to file a medical exemption, claiming a hand injury suffered in the Burns fight, but lacked sufficient proof of injury causing delay in ordered talks with Lipinets
From public demand – and a violation of its own rules – the IBF granted a final exemption to allow Crawford-Indongo, on the condition that the winner next face Lipinets by no later than November. Crawford emphatically collected all the belts on the heels of a 3rd round body shot knockout of Indongo on August 19 in Lincoln, Nebraska, but his victory tour lasted all of two days before receiving notification to immediately negotiate terms for his mandatory title defense.
Lipinets, however, decided he’d waited long enough for a title shot and—through promoter Tom Brown’s TGB Promotions—informed the IBF that his team opted to bypass the 30-day negotiation period and immediately enter a purse bid hearing which was due to take place on August 31.
Crawford and promoter Top Rank initially entertained the idea of winning a purse bid and perhaps showcasing the fight on ESPN. Instead, the purse bid hearing was called off as Crawford informed the IBF that he no longer desired to represent the organization at that weight, with the possibility of vacating all of his 140-pound titles in exchange for an expected move up the scale to welterweight.
Now a three-belt titlist for the moment, Crawford’s stay as a fully unified world champion lasted a grand total of 12 days.
Bernard Hopkins managed to hold all four middleweight titles for the final 10 months of a historic reign that saw 20 title defenses of at least one belt over the span of 10 years and three months. He obtained his fourth and final belt with a Sept. ’04 knockout of Oscar de la Hoya, and–with a 12-round win over Howard Eastman—remains the only boxer in history to make a single defense of all four belts at one time.
His reign ended in controversy, dropping a highly questionable 12-round decision to then-unbeaten Jermain Taylor in July ’05. Taylor’s stay as a four-belt king lasted four months, also eventually vacating his IBF title though in favor of a rematch with Hopkins.
Meanwhile, a new set of negotiations are underway to crown the next IBF 140-pound titlist.
“The IBF has ordered Lipinets and Kondo to fight for the vacant title and their respective teams should start negotiating immediately,” Salazar stated. “They have until September 30, 2017, to come to an agreement.
“If an agreement isn’t reached by then, the IBF will order a purse bid.”
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