A lot of boxers say they were born to fight. Some of them are right. Rising welterweight star Jaron “Boots” Ennis definitely fits the latter category as the son of Derek “Bozy” Ennis Sr. and the brother of Derek “Pooh” Ennis and Farah Ennis.
“I always knew I was gonna box and I knew I was gonna do this,” the 23-year-old said. “I played basketball and boxed at the same time, but basketball wasn't as fun for me no more, so I said I'm just gonna continue to box. Boxing was the only thing that was really fun for me and I could do what I loved. Boxing was the one for me.”
But could Ennis, just a couple inches shorter than Philadelphia icon Allen Iverson, really play ball?
“I was all right,” he laughs. “I was okay. Nothing too crazy. I could score.”
He’s a better boxer, though?
“Most definitely a better boxer. But I'm athletic, I can do it all.”
One look at him in the ring, and you believe he could do whatever he wanted to do. Fast, powerful, technical and aggressive, Ennis has already captured the imagination of diehard fight fans as he’s raced out to a 26-0 record that includes 24 knockouts. But when he steps into the ring at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut this Saturday for his first Showtime Championship Boxing main event against former 140-pound world champion Sergey Lipinets, it’s his chance to make a statement to fans in and out of the boxing bubble that he’s the next big thing in the sport.
And the way he sees it, it’s about time.
“I've been saying it's about time for these type of fights for two and a half years and we finally got a guy with a name and it's perfect timing,” he said. “So I'm thankful and I'm ready to rock and roll and show this talent.”
If you’ve seen Ennis’ talent, it’s impossible not to be impressed. He’s almost a throwback to a different time when fighters learned their craft and didn’t rely strictly on physical tools. Watch his defensive prowess, his ability to string together combinations and his willingness to get into a firefight if necessary and you will be impressed. Consider that he’s only 23 and his potential is scary. Yet despite the praise coming his way, Ennis is keeping it cool.
“I don't really pay too much attention to that stuff,” he said. “I just stay in the gym and perfect my craft and get better for each and every fight that I have and try to better myself every fight that I have.”
It’s a mature outlook for a young man who has the talent to make noise at the top of the division right now, yet while he admits he’s been waiting a while for an opportunity like the one ahead of him this weekend, he’s also had to exercise patience with the process.
“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.”
Beating an ex-champ in Lipinets in a premium cable main event will serve him well on that quest, and with a top 15 ranking in three of the four major sanctioning bodies (WBC, IBF and WBO) already, he will be rightfully in the conversation for a title shot should he move to 27-0 on Saturday.
But there’s the rub. In today’s boxing world, being in position for a crack at a belt doesn’t mean you’ll get one, especially at 147 pounds, where the best fights are taking place on social media and not in the ring. Ennis, who has been dispatching quality foes with rapid-fire intensity from the time he took two rounds to halt Mike Arnaoutis in 2018, doesn’t appear to be someone adverse to taking on a challenge. Then again, he is from Philadelphia.
“Being a Philly fighter means everything,” he said. “I've always said you gotta put on for Philly, put Philly on your back. You gotta show that grit, that toughness and show what you're really about and show your skills.”
Not just in the gym, not just in club fights, or on undercards. No, real fighters like Ennis want to perform in the spotlight when it’s at its brightest against the best possible competition. So, with all the talk about Terence Crawford and Errol Spence not fighting each other and 800 “champions” jockeying for position at the top in the WBA, what is Ennis’ mission statement should he wind up with one of those belts sooner rather than later.
“When I grab one of these belts, I'm gonna get all the belts, and unify, and be undisputed,” he said. “And then go up to '54 and do the same thing. For me, it's about just fighting the best in the division, and being great and going down in history and becoming a legend.”