Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis: A look into the future
We had expected four of the top 10 welterweights, according to The Ring’s current ratings, to fight over the weekend.
The Ring’s No. 3 Jaron Ennis versus No. 9 Roiman Villa and our No. 4 Vergil Ortiz to square off against the No. 5 Eimantas Stanionis. It was an intriguing look into the future at 147 pounds and a prelude to the undisputed welterweight showdown between No. 1 Errol Spence Jr. and the No. 2 Terence Crawford for the vacant Ring belt.
Ortiz and Ennis, who were The Ring’s Prospects of the Year in 2019 and 2020 respectively, are widely seen as the future of the division.
However, on Thursday, we received the disappointing news that Stanionis-Ortiz had fallen out for the third time. The Texan pulled out due to health issues. The eagerly anticipated shootout between two aggressive fighters appears snake-bitten and you wonder if these two will ever get it on.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Jaron Ennis (31-0, 28 knockouts) showed the world just how good he is by picking apart the teak-tough Roiman Villa before finally breaking him down and forcing the stoppage midway through the tenth round.
Ennis started well before Villa (26-2, 24 KOs) had a good fifth round, winning it on all three scorecards. The Philadelphia native turned the screw and began to take control in the sixth. A ringside physician was called after the eighth round, such was Ennis dominance. Ennis continued to punish Villa until a vicious left, right combination saw the Venezuelan finally wilt under heavy fire and was saved from himself by referee David Fields.
Ennis was ahead at time of the stoppage 89-82 (twice) and 88-83 on the scorecards.
It was a return to his best after a less-than-sparking display against Karen Chukhadzhian in January. It should be noted that “Boots” won a 12-round shutout decision over Chukhadzhian, but such was the lofty expectations that it was viewed as a so-so performance. On the plus side, it allowed Ennis to get 12 rounds under his belt for the first time (he had never previously been past the sixth round) and knock off several months of ring rust as well, having appeared just once in 2022.
On this night against Villa, Ennis threw down a marker to his contemporaries that he wants the smoke. All of it.
“I want the winner of Errol Spence and Terence Crawford,” proclaimed Ennis. “Let’s make it happen.
“I’ll take on Eimantas Stanionis in a heartbeat. I want to get into the ring one more time before the end of the year to make it three fights. Stanionis, Keith Thurman, Yordenis Ugas, all the top guys out there. Let’s make these fights happen.”
The 26-year-old, like everyone else at 147pounds, had been caught up in the log-jam over the past year of whether or not Spence-Crawford would happen.
Ennis, who comes from a fighting family, was handed a pair of boxing gloves at a very early age and it shows. He looks as at home as any fighter could inside the squared circle.
His promise was recognized at an early age despite not making Team U.S.A. for the 2016 Olympics afterlosing to touted junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell in a box-off. He moved into the pro ranks, signing forms with manager-turned-promoter Cameron Dunkin.
Ennis quickly put the Olympic disappointment behind him. While the all-too-inactive Russell remains unbeaten and Ring-rated, whose career would you rather have today?
Dunkin, who managed over 30 fighters to world titles including Kelly Pavlik, Tim Bradley, Terence Crawford and Nonito Donaire, expertly guided Ennis away from the bright lights initially, letting the young fighter find his stride.
After impressing on ShoBox, Ennis graduated to Showtime and has moved from opening the telecast into the main event on Saturday. And he looked very at home doing so.
He has the look of a generational talent. We’d love to see him face the Spence-Crawford winner. While he wouldn’t be the favorite, he would be a very live underdog, one you wonder if the Spence-Crawford victor would be happy to entertain. After all, there are bigger names and better paydays without risking everything against a young lion like Ennis.
Dunkin always said that Ennis is the most naturally gifted fighter he has ever worked with, a high praise given the list of fighters he worked with, a list that includes Crawford. In one conversation, Dunkin memorably called Ennis a unicorn. When I asked him what he meant, he told me, ‘His talent is that rare.’
We often mused how Ennis would do ahead of his fights and he often over-performed on the expectations.
Against Sergey Lipinets we believed the fight would go several rounds, but he flattened Lipinets in six. Thomas Dulorme figured to last several rounds but he was taken out in a round. Custio Clayton was unbeaten in 20 figthts, but he was out in two and hasn’t fought since.
While it’s a big claim and I prefer to stay away from this kind of hyperbole, I have likened Ennis to Roy Jones Jr. in his early days at middleweight. The otherworldly Jones took out very solid practioners Sugar Boy Malinga and Thomas Tate with ruthless ease.
Perhaps Chukhadzhian was Ennis’s Jorge Castro.
Ennis, who is equally adept boxing from an orthodox or southpaw stance, has elite speed and athleticism, power and a nasty side inside the ring. He has been widely tipped as the next great fighter out of Philadelphia, and along with WBC/ WBO 122-pound titlist Stephen Fulton they lead the city’s boxing hopes and aspirations at the moment.
Not too long ago there were similar hopes for Ortiz. Unfortunately, due to injuries and weight issues he’s gone off the boil. Hopefully the offensive Texan monster can fix things and get back to action.
Two excellent talents, albeit very different in their approach inside the ring. One is a burgeoning star, while the other’s future is on hold and decidedly less clear.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].