Had he taken a more patient approach when he battled Bakhtiyar Eyubov, Jaron Ennis thinks he could’ve scored a second-round knockout.
Ennis eventually stopped Eyubov in the fourth round, but the gifted Philadelphia welterweight learned to remain calm from his last performance January 10 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The 23-year-old Ennis plans to apply what he learned versus Eyubov when he faces Juan Carlos Abreu in a 10-round fight Saturday night and beyond.
As much as Ennis wants a title shot, the young contender understands he is a high-risk, low-reward type of opponent for such established champions as Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Secondary title-holders Yordenis Ugas and Jamal James want bigger fights and accompanying paydays as well, thus they’re not likely to face Ennis, either.
In fact, Ennis suspects he’ll have to become the mandatory challenger for one of the welterweight titles before he’ll get his shot.
“I think I might have to get into a mandatory position, because I don’t think any of the champs are gonna call me out,” Ennis told BoxingScene.com. “I don’t feel like one of the champs are gonna be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just gonna fight this guy.’ I’m ranked for the belts, but I don’t think they’re gonna just pick me. They’re gonna skip all around me and pick the easier fights.”
Ennis is ranked 11th by the WBO, 12th by the IBF and 15th by the WBC. His handlers have had difficulty finding ranked contenders who are willing to box Ennis for reasonable purses, but Ennis won’t allow those obstacles to frustrate him.
“A year-and-a-half ago, two years ago, I wouldn’t say it was frustrating, but I just wanted to get in there to show them that I’m ready,” Ennis said. “As I got older and wiser, I’m like, it’s on them if they wanna keep waiting around and letting me get better and more mature and smarter and faster and wiser. It’s gonna be worse the longer they wait.”
Ennis (25-0, 23 KOs) will fight for the first time since he stopped Kazakhstan’s Eyubov (14-2-1, 12 KOs, 1 NC) when he battles Abreu. The 33-year-old Abreu (23-5-1, 21 KOs, 1 NC) has never been knocked out and expressed Thursday during a virtual press conference that he’ll be the first true test of Ennis’ four-year pro career.
An unfazed Ennis expects to stop Abreu inside the distance and advance in what could be a lengthy journey toward a title shot.
“I’m still young,” Ennis said. “I’ve got time. The only thing this is doing is making me get better, helping me to be sharper, faster, stronger, tighten up my defense and become a better boxer all around. So, by the time I do get my shot, it’s gonna be easy.”
The Ennis-Abreu bout will be the first of three fights Showtime will televise Saturday night from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
In the main event, Erickson Lubin (22-1, 16 KOs), of Orlando, Florida, and Cleveland’s Terrell Gausha (21-1-1, 10 KOs) will square off in a 12-round, 154-pound WBC eliminator. In the bout between Ennis-Abreu and Lubin-Gausha, Mongolia’s Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9 KOs) will encounter Cobia Breedy (15-0, 5 KOs), of Hyattsville, Maryland, in another 10-rounder.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.