LOS ANGELES – Custio Clayton couldn’t turn down the fight most welterweights wouldn’t take.
Clayton is undefeated, but he is already 34 and has just 20 professional fights on his record more than seven years into his career. The 2012 Olympian settled for a 12-round majority draw with Sergey Lipinets in his only title fight, which took place 18 months ago.
The Canadian contender felt as though he couldn’t waste more time. When he was presented with the opportunity to face Jaron Ennis, who is commonly considered the next big thing in boxing, Clayton accepted what figures to be a very difficult fight on the Jermell Charlo-Brian Castano undercard Saturday night at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
“Right now, where I’m at, I ain’t been able to get the fights that I needed,” Clayton told BoxingScene.com. “So, we just had to make sure and decide, you know what? This is a fight that, yeah, a lot of people wouldn’t take this fight. But it’s the fight that’s been offered and at this time in my career this is the fight that I need to prove myself. And then we go from there.”
The 24-year-old Ennis (28-0, 26 KOs, 1 NC) is an uncommon combination of intelligence, power, speed and versatility, yet a high-risk, low-reward proposition for welterweight champions and former champions who haven’t even entertained the idea of facing him. In his most noteworthy win, Ennis dominated Kazakhstan’s Lipinets (16-2-1, 12 KOs) until the Philadelphia native knocked him out in the sixth round of their April 2021 bout at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Clayton said when asked about the one-sided nature of the Ennis-Lipinets fight. “Lipinets was a very good fighter. I fought him as well, but at the same time, styles make fights. [Ennis is] a very, very talented fighter and he has a lot. But when you’re in that ring, all you can do is what’s presented to you. And he usually takes it.”
Ottawa’s Clayton (19-0-1, 12 KOs) intends to take advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to him in this 12-round IBF elimination match.
“I’m very smart,” Clayton said. “My ring IQ, that shows a lot of me. I ain’t been able to show everything, but I think this fight will bring a lot out of me.”
Clayton won a 10-round unanimous decision over Cameron Krael (18-22-3, 5 KOs) in a non-televised bout December 11 at Dignity Health Sports Park. That win represented Clayton’s only appearance since his draw with Lipinets in October 2020.
“I’ve been through a lot,” Clayton said. “Most people don’t know everything I’ve been through, a lot of ups and downs that I had, the fights that fell through, fights that I’ve been promised that ain’t been got. And this fight right here came [up] a couple times. And the part of my career where I’m at right now, it’s a fight that I had no choice but to take. It’s a fight that will let people see that I’m a very good fighter as well.”
Showtime will televise Ennis-Clayton as the co-feature before Buenos Aires’ Castano (17-0-2, 12 KOs) and Houston’s Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs) will meet in its main event.
The immediate rematch between Castano, 32, and Charlo, 31, will be contested for Castano’s WBO junior middleweight title and Charlo’s IBF, WBA and WBC 154-pound crowns. Unless they fight to another draw or their bout results in a no-contest, the winner will become boxing’s first fully unified 154-pound champion of the four-belt era and just the seventh undisputed champion in any division during that period.
Showtime’s three-bout broadcast is programmed to begin at 9 p.m. ET with a 10-rounder in which Mexican junior featherweight contender Kevin Gonzalez (24-0-1, 13 KOs) will oppose Puerto Rico’s Emanuel Rivera (19-2, 12 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.