This weekend, the 2023 Fighter of the Year race begins. And if all goes well on Saturday in Washington, D.C., and over the next 12 months, the name Jaron Ennis will feature prominently in that race.


“It’s all about fighting the best,” said Ennis. “I want to fight all the top guys and the guys that everybody knows. But things don’t always go how they’re supposed to.”

They haven’t. By now, the 25-year-old shouldn’t be talking about fighting Karen Chukhadzhian for an interim title at 147 pounds on the undercard of the Gervonta Davis-Hector Luis Garcia PPV event at Capital One Arena. That’s not a knock on Ukraine’s Chukhadzhian, because he’s a solid fighter. 

But Ennis is a special fighter, a fighter who should be further along than his 29-0, 1 NC record would indicate. Yes, he’s been perfect, he’s been spectacular, and he reminds fans and pundits of a fighter from a different era, one when the best made their money by fighting the best, not by saving their best shots for Twitter.

And in old-school fashion, Ennis refuses to play the 2023 game.

“I feel like I just have to keep winning and doing my thing,” he said. “On January 7, it’s another step toward me getting my hands on those titles. Maybe I have to talk a little bit more, but I’m really a vicious dog that just likes to bite.

“I don’t want to be somebody that I’m not. I’m going to be myself and be humble. I’m going to do this my way.”

That attitude is worthy of respect, respect he’s already earned in the ring with his wins over the likes of Sergey Lipinets, Thomas Dulorme, Custio Clayton and, well, everybody he’s faced. Sure, he’s an athlete and has natural gifts like speed and power, but what separates Ennis from the pack is that he’s a student of the game, a technical fighter who has done his part to bring back the lost art of combination punching. His attack and lanky frame bring to mind a Philly version of Alexis Arguello. That’s scary enough for

Chukhadzhian. But for this camp, “Boots” has been studying elsewhere.

“I’ve just been watching a lot of Mike Tyson myself,” he said. “He put a lot of punches together. Triple, doubles, same hands, lots of knockouts. He didn’t see too many late rounds. I’ve been watching him a lot this camp.”

Ennis’ respect for the game and those that came before him is admirable, but it’s done him no favors. As he enters his first world title fight, he remains only an outsider when it comes to the big fights in his division, namely, bouts against Errol Spence, Terence Crawford and Vergil Ortiz. 

The last time I spoke to him about this topic in 2021 before the Lipinets bout, he was fine with being patient. 

“At the end of the day, patience and timing is key and you've got to wait your turn just like everybody else,” said Ennis. “Like I say, everybody's pay-up is different to a world title, and mine is just taking a little longer. But I know it's coming and I know I'm gonna be world champion soon.”   

This was 2021. The pandemic hadn’t slowed him down, as he got in three fights in 2020. The Lipinets win was just around the corner, and he ended that year with another victory over Dulorme.

But last year, it was the May knockout of Clayton and that was it. Crawford and Spence did their dance without getting into a fistfight, and Ortiz, like Ennis, only got one fight in, as he stopped Michael McKinson in August. When I spoke to the talented Texan before that fight for Boxing News magazine, he was in the same boat Ennis was. 

“I know it's a process,” Ortiz said. “It's not like I can just ask for it and get it. A lot of people are already world champions and they're not getting the fights that they want, so I know that me, not having a belt or nothing, I'm not gonna get the fights that I want right now. And I know it's gonna happen; I just gotta be patient and my time will come.”

For the diehard boxing fan, Ennis vs. Ortiz may be the biggest fight that can be made in 2023, especially with the endless waiting for Crawford vs. Spence taking some of the edge off the excitement for that SuperFight. But at this point, we’d take anything involving the top four as long as they’re fighting each other in one way, shape or form. 

But will it happen? Ennis remains optimistic.

 “I feel like Errol Spence Jr. would fight me,” he said. “I’m going in there with the intention of winning the interim title, then fighting Errol next. I think we can make it happen.”

Sometimes faith in the face of the million obstacles boxing provides is all a fighter needs to keep moving forward. Add in the talent and drive Jaron Ennis has, and a 2023 Fighter of the Year nod will be the least of his accolades. So maybe he knows more than he’s letting on.

“The big names are coming, I just have to be patient.”