Saturday, July 20, 2024  |


Jaron Ennis not bothered by pressure of hometown defense, believes big fights are coming

Photo by Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME
Fighters Network

As Jaron “Boots” Ennis prepares to make his first welterweight title defense on Saturday against David Avanesyan, he doesn’t feel pressure to perform.

Even though Saturday’s bout will be the first of a lucrative multi-fight deal he signed with Matchroom Boxing and a massive event (over 10,000+ tickets sold) at the Wells Fargo Center in his hometown of Philadelphia, Ennis (31-0, 28 knockouts) hasn’t let the enormity of the moment get to him. In fact, this exact scenario is one that he has envisioned for himself. He believes that events of this nature are where he belongs. He is convinced of his pound-for-pound talent, but it’s taken a longer road than expected for sizeable opportunities to come his way.    

Ennis has a right to feel optimistic about his future. After years of waiting for the bigger fish in the division like Terence Crawford and Errol Spence to give him an opportunity, those two have seemingly left the division for good, providing Ennis with the chance to stamp his name on the division. Although he certainly wanted those bigger fights, he now understands that he will have the opportunity, should he win on Saturday, to face the rest of the titlists in the division. As the welterweight division stands right now, there are no bigger stars than Ennis, and no massive guarantees to pay out in terms of the other top fighters at 147. There are fights that can be made.

Furthermore, Ennis also has a clean slate in terms of representation. Saturday will be Ennis’ first fight in a year, as there are no more promotional entanglements with his former promoter (the late Cameron Dunkin and Dunkin’s estate). With Matchroom, Ennis expects to be promoted on a platform (DAZN) that will pay for opponents. Although he previously had a multi-fight deal with Showtime, for whatever reason that contract failed to deliver marquee opponents. After offers from multiple parties, Ennis liked the plan that Matchroom and Eddie Heard laid out for him. Hearn believes that Ennis is a star and worthy of big events and that he has the global reach to lure top opponents Boots’ way.

Saturday will be Ennis’ first fight in Philadelphia in over five years. Although he was a darling of the Philly club fight scene, his professional career has seen him take on his biggest assignments away from home. A part of the attraction to the Matchroom offer was a joint understanding of building Ennis at home. The early returns have been good on the partnership. The fight has done better than many expected at the box office. The Wells Fargo Center has not been an active player in boxing, but the combination of Boots’ star power and Matchroom’s belief in boxers’ building local followings has led to a successful promotion.

Boots grew up around boxing. His two older brothers, Derek (24-5-1) and Farah (22-2) were respected pros with reputations as great sparring partners for the cream of the crop in their era. “They taught me a lot of things,” said Boots. “They taught me to always be ready, to always be in shape. That’s why I am the way I am today. I’m always in the gym, always ready. I took that knowledge from them and it has helped to get me where I am.”

By all accounts, Boots was a prodigy in the gym, an athletic marvel who was able to master an array of fighting styles at an early age. Boots can slug, he can box, he can switch hit and he can overwhelm opponents with hand speed, power and accuracy.

Although Ennis is supremely confident in his ability and skills, the gym rat in him appreciates the opportunities where he has faced adversity in his career. Ennis failed to stop the light-hitting Karen Chukhadzhian in early 2023. He was criticized for failing to cut off the ring and loading up on single shots for the knockout. Ennis called that experience “a blessing.” He and his father/trainer, Derek “Bozy” Ennis, immediately went back to the gym and came to important realizations.     

“I went into that fight thinking knockout, knockout,” said “Boots” Ennis. “And it wasn’t even about having fun. It was knockout, knockout. That was the whole thing. I started to eventually go the body and get my work done. It was a learning experience. I went 12 rounds, and I could have gone 12 more. I was in phenomenal shape that night. That fight was a blessing and I’m glad I had it. That fight made me go back to just having fun and being me, and not looking for the knockout.”

Similarly, when he got hit with a couple of big right hands earlier in his career against Thomas Dulorme and Sergey Lipinets, he didn’t dismiss or downplay those moments. He viewed them as opportunities to improve. “Those fights taught me to be a little bit more patient, to be sharper,” he said. “Ever since those fights, I’ve worked on being sharper with my eyes, and being better in the ring.”

As gifted as Ennis is offensively, Boots said that his father’s number one point of emphasis is defense. To them that’s the bedrock of boxing. And Boots has been around solid defensive fighters throughout his career, whether it’s the tricky style of former welterweight contender Ray Robinson, with whom he sparred countless rounds or the gifted Cuban lightweight Andy Cruz, who has mastered the “hit and don’t get hit” style of the Cuban School of Boxing. And while Boots is always confident in his skills, he understands that there are always opportunities to improve.

Avanesyan (30-4-1, 18 KOs) is a late-replacement opponent for Cody Crowley, who dropped out of the fight after failing an eye exam. Avanesyan lost his last high-profile fight to Terence Crawford in 2022, but he will definitely be looking to spring another upset in his colorful career. Despite the significant difference in opponent styles (Crowley is a boxer who relies on angles and movement while Avanesyan is more of a power puncher), Ennis wasn’t concerned with the switch and said that there were no meaningful changes during training camp.

Naturally a comparison will be made between Ennis and Terence Crawford regarding how they fare against a common opponent in Avanesyan and it worth pointing out that Ennis only became a full titlist at welterweight because Crawford gave up his belt to move to 154 lbs. But while Ennis has certainly wanted to fight Crawford for years, he understands that his time will come, even if it’s not on his preferred timetable.

“It’s going to come,” said Ennis. “The big fights are going to come. I have to stay patient, keep beating whoever they put in front of me, and it’s going to come.”