One month and $20,000 later, there is finally a clear path to full title unification in the 140-pound division.
The main selling point of the August 19 showdown between unbeaten and unified champs Terence Crawford and Julius Indongo was the fact that all four major belts will be at stake for the contest. That statement wasn't entirely true until July 20, at which point the International Boxing Federation (IBF) agreed to grant Indongo (whom also holds the WBA) title) a second exception to pursue a unification bout in lieu of honoring his mandatory challenger obligations.
Indongo was granted such an exception through a vote among the IBF Board of Directors, which was conducted through a conference call. While the vote wasn't unanimous, a majority of the 11-person panel agreed to allow the fight to happen.
"It is the responsibility of the IBF Board of Directors to review the information regarding the exception request and to determine whether the exception should be granted or denied and what conditions if any will apply," noted IBF President Daryl J. Peoples to all involved parties via confirmation letter, of which a copy has been obtained by FightNights.com. "On July 20, 2017, the Board of Directors participated in a conference call to determine whether this exception request should be granted or denied. A majority of the Directors have determined that the Exception to Regulations should be granted to Julius Indongo."
The ruling—which came one month after Indongo's co-promoter Eddie Hearn submitted a formal exception request, which required a $20,000 non-refundable deposit—came with several stipulations, however. An exception had to be filed for consideration since Indongo was on the hook to next face mandatory challenger Sergey Lipinets, who has been waiting in the wings since earning his title shot with an 8th round knockout of Leonard Zappavigna last December. The win came hours after Indongo iced Eduard Troyanovsky with a single punch to win the IBF title on the road in Russia.
The unbeaten Namibian southpaw filed for an exception for his first title defense, which came in the form of another road trip in traveling to Scotland for a two-belt unification clash with Ricky Burns.
Indongo (22-0, 11KOs) won by unanimous decision to pick up a second belt, but left the ring knowing a Lipinets (12-0, 10KOs) fight would soon be ordered. The IBF in fact acted promptly, ordering a 30-day negotiations period before the matter would go to a purse bid hearing.
A loophole came in the form of Hearn—on behalf of Indongo—filing for a medical exemption, claiming his charge suffered a hand injury in his aforementioned win over Burns. Medical proof was required by the IBF, as well as a request for records review by Lipinets' team. Indongo's team managed to kill enough time to secure a four-belt unification clash with Crawford (31-0, 22KOs) shortly after watching from ringside as the switch-hitter from Omaha, Nebraska dismantled 2008 Olympic Gold medalist Felix Diaz in ten one-sided rounds this past May.
Details for the bout were finalized by June 30, with the clash to air live on ESPN from the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. The event takes place roughly one hour from Crawford's hometown, close enough for Indongo to enter his third straight title bout in his opponent's proverbial backyard.
Still, the IBF getting on board with the four-belt unification tagline required a majority rule through formal vote from its Board of Directors. That moment came on July 20, although not without a full list of stipulations before granting its full blessing.
"A majority of the Directors have determined that the Exception to Regulations should be granted to Julius Indongo with the following conditions," Peoples informed representatives for Crawford (Top Rank), Indongo (Hearn's Matchroom Boxing), Lipinets (TGB Promotions) and their respective attorneys. "The Julius Indongo vs. [Terence] Crawford bout must take place on or before August 19, 2017. The contracts for this bout must be submitted to this office by the close of the business day on Friday, August 4, 2017."
What those contracts cannot contain is a rematch clause that would get in the way of the winner next facing Lipinets, given the short turnaround provided by the IBF. It will also mark the absolute final exception granted by the New Jersey-based sanctioning body—at least until Lipinets is finally granted his title shot.
"The contracts shall not include any clause that will interfere with the mandatory defense of the IBF Jr. Welterweight title. Julius Indongo and [Terence] Crawford must agree in writing that they will fight the IBF Jr. Welterweight Mandatory within 90 days of the August 19, 2017 bout or by Saturday November 17, 2017," explained Peoples. "(They) must agree in writing to indemnify, hold harmless and otherwise reimburse the IBF for any legal fees or other expenses related to the granting of this exception, including but not limited to, the cost attendant to any resultant litigation.
"Julius Indongo and [Terence] Crawford will comply with all of the conditions set forth in the granting of this exception or formal sanction will not issue for the proposed bout on August 19, 2017. The IBF will not consider any future Exception or Unification requests until the IBF Jr. Welterweight Champion completes his IBF Mandatory obligation."
Crawford will attempt the sixth defense of at least one title dating back to his becoming a two-division belt claimant with a 6th round knockout of Thomas Dulorme in their April '15 vacant WBO 140-pound clash. The unbeaten rising star added the WBC belt with a 12-round whitewash of Viktor Postol last July—one year to the day this past Sunday—and also earning industry-wide recognition as the World (lineal) 140-pound champion.