After Jaron Ennis both hoisted Sergey Lipinets off his feet with a left uppercut and left him prone on the canvas to end their fight, Ennis calmly walked back to his corner. As the referee ended the fight officially with Lipinets clearly unable to continue, Ennis briefly flexed his arms in celebration. Not the kind of aggressive flexing athletes do when they’re fired up or have done something unexpected—quite the opposite. Ennis was calm in the moment, showing the base-level amount of excitement about doing something he fully expected to do.
“We all know he’s going to come forward and be right there in front of me,” Ennis said on a Zoom media conference prior to the fight. “His style plays perfectly into my style. If he’s coming forward, he’ll be running into everything and it’s perfect. It’s going to be a long night for him and I’m going to put on a dominating, punishing performance. I will get the knockout.”
Ennis acted out his prediction, drifting effortlessly between an orthodox stance and a southpaw stance, punishing Lipinets equally from both sides. Surely there was strategic calculation at play, but at times it felt like Ennis, a natural righty, was beating Lipinets up left-handed just because he could. He knew for weeks where Lipinets was going to be, what he was going to do, and alas, he was right there in front of him. The finishing blow came from a southpaw stance, a true indicator of just how easy it was for Ennis, if his gaudy 53% connect rate according to CompuBox in the fight wasn’t proof enough.
“I think I graduated tonight,” Ennis said after the fight. “It’s on to bigger and better fights now.”
A graduation is a fair analogy for what occurred on Saturday night in Uncasville, CT, because graduations are merely ceremonial. Those who graduate have already done so in reality, they’re merely showing up to get their cap and gown. Jaron Ennis knew he was a world class fighter, and had known it for quite some time. He just needed the diploma to prove it, and he got it in the form of a statement knockout over Lipinets.
At 27-0, Ennis has taken longer to be anointed as “ready” than most fighters do these days, a path that has been very intentional. At 19-0, Ennis was still fighting journeymen on Philadelphia club shows. Not the types of journeymen that lay down for a paycheck, but the the ones with records above .500, the ones who beat the pretenders and take even the real prospects rounds, names like Mike Arnaoutis and Samuel Amoako. Except they couldn’t even manage to give him rounds—“Boots” was too good.
As fighters climb their way up the ranks, high caliber fighters will do to the journeymen what Ennis did, though it’s rare. But truly special fighters do to contenders what Ennis did to Lipinets when they arrive on the world level, and that is exceptionally rare.
“I could have been 8-0 with eight knockouts and fighting for a world title, but we chose a different road, and I feel like this road is better because I got to develop as a pro and become like a seasoned vet even at my age,” Ennis told Mitch Abramson on the Premier Boxing Champions website last week.
Ennis has always seemed confident in his ability to move faster than he has—deliberately mentioning top welterweight names like Terrence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. for well over a year—but never impatient about the pace either. The son of a former pro turned boxing lifer Derek Ennis, and the brother of two solid pros, Farah and Derek Jr., Jaron’s entire life has been spent in the sport—so what rush would there be?
The Ennis family takes a decidedly old school approach. Move a fighter slowly, learning bits and pieces of things from old vets along the way. In the gym, while Ennis has recently added an underwater treadmill to his arsenal of gadgets, the rest of his repertoire looks like something out of a 1950s boot camp. To this day he climbs a rope fastened to a stack of weights in the gym, dangled outside of the building’s window into the grungy back parking lot, scaling the wall to build endurance and upper body strength. When he descends, he smashes old tires that look like they might have been discarded there even if they weren’t placed there deliberately.
But while his methods may be unglamorous, his technique is anything but. It’s impossible to watch Ennis’ blend of blinding speed and fight-ending power and not start to think that he could be a transcendent talent. Ennis’ allure is more than just the sum of his parts however—his carefully curated flashy attire, his self-assured presence in the ring radiate stardom. If you knew nothing about boxing, you would still know that Ennis was someone special within moments of seeing him move.
It’s that magnetism that may finally force the hand of the powers-that-be and place Ennis in a high-profile fight against the division’s very best. Many on the boxing Twitter timeline were already posing the question “who wouldn’t you favor Jaron Ennis over in the welterweight division right now?” Ennis spent time during his fight-week media rounds mentioning Crawford specifically, whom Ennis’ manager Cameron Dunkin still has a minute percentage tie to until the end of September according to Lance Pugmire of The Athletic.
"I'll be back in the gym Monday getting better. The job's not done," said Ennis. "I feel like I'll be world champion by the end of 2021, early 2022. Patience is the key though."
Ennis will be a lifelong student, that much is obvious. But he might just be ready to lead the class.