Everyone who sees Jaron “Boots” Ennis in the ring knows there’s something special about him. One could debate how high his ceiling is, but there should be universal agreement that he isn’t just another run-of-the-mill fighter and that he has long deserved to be out of the hallway with the prospects and in the ballroom with the contenders.
“Boots” officially kicked that door down on Saturday night with an emphatic sixth-round TKO victory over Juan Carlos Abreu, a stoppage victory he predicted earlier in the week.
Fighters predicting and delivering on knockouts isn’t novel in a vacuum, both because the vast majority of boxing matches worldwide result in the favored fighter having their hand raised and because the de facto answer to the inevitable prediction prompt from fight reporters is inevitably some version of either “I’ll take the knockout if it comes” or “I am absolutely going to knock them out.” But Ennis’ performance felt different, like there was a level of control over how and when the stoppage would come that generally isn’t possible at this level of fighting.
Ennis was expected to beat Abreu, but Abreu is no slouch. Two years ago, he gave Egidijus Kavaliauskas a highly competitive fight, and went the distance with Alexander Besputin, who once held a minor version of the WBA’s welterweight title. Both Mean Machine and Besputin have proven themselves to be good fighters, and Abreu gave one substantial problems and was able to stay on his feet against the other. But whatever agency he had over the result of the fight on those nights was non-existent on Saturday. Ennis seemingly chose when he wanted the fight to end, and that’s when it did.
For the first four rounds, Ennis glided around the ring looking generally like a fighter does when they’re levels above their opponent but “want to get some work in.” On more than one occasion, Ennis lifted his right shoe and brushed the bottom of it with his right glove while he landed a jab with his left. For long stretches, Ennis showed that while he is an orthodox fighter in billing, he is perfectly ambidextrous in the ring (thanks to his father transitioning him into a righty when he was eight) landing sharp lead left hands with a snap that other fighters who turn southpaw mid-fight for diversity’s sake can’t produce.
In the fifth, Ennis landed one of the prettier counter uppercuts in some time, flooring Abreu, who, to his credit, got to his feet and looked far better than a man who seconds earlier was glassy-eyed and star-fished on the canvas should have. Abreu managed to make it to the end of the round, but for whatever reason—frustration after the knockdown, hoping for a DQ—he decided to instigate an altercation after the bell. He was forced to his corner by the referee, his cornerman and a commission member, as Ennis pirouetted back to his corner, plotting his retaliation. It came swiftly.
As the bell rang for the sixth, Ennis started throwing his hardest stuff—the kind of hard stuff most fighters can’t throw because they’d be out of control and vulnerable. Within fifteen seconds Abreu was flat on his back again, and 50 seconds after that the fight was over.
Afterwards, Ennis guessed that in six rounds, he had only been hit clean three or four times.
"I think he didn't want to get stopped. I think he was looking for a disqualification loss or something, I don't know. I knew I was going to stop him, like I told you all before, I knew it was going to come. I had my fun with this. When you have fun with the sport like that, it's hard to beat somebody like that," said Ennis at the post-fight Zoom media conference.
Ennis looks like someone who will be difficult for anyone in the division to beat, even right now. Intelligent people can disagree on whether fighting, say, Terence Crawford, next time out would be a wise move for Ennis or not, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that even if there’s a bit of a gap between him and the tippy top of the division, there can’t be much of one. And if there is a proving ground for him to pass through, that may just be more inevitable ground for him to cover.
Unfortunately for him, because of his standing promotionally and politically, he may have to take a lengthier path to a title shot, or leverage sanctioning bodies to force potential opponents’ hands. Ennis is something of an independent entity on the Showtime roster—he’s not affiliated with PBC, and as such, isn’t mentioned in the internal welterweight showdown the company has pushed for years with names like Errol Spence, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and others.
Perhaps because of that, Ennis hasn’t received the kind of attention or billing a fighter of his ability and status would have otherwise received to this point. This latest spectacular performance against Abreu was the opener of a three-fight telecast. And outside of the ring, despite his sparkling personality and gift of gab, he doesn’t happen to train at one of the trendy gyms in California or Nevada where the bulk of boxing’s YouTube media exists and often drives the sport’s discussion. Instead, he’s flipping tires and climbing ropes up a brick wall at his father’s gym in a converted warehouse in Philadelphia.
None of these things are Ennis’ fault, or even things he should change. Provided boxing works as it should, talent should always win out, and as anyone who sees him knows, Ennis has more of it than most who step in the ring. Now, more people just need to see him.