Jaron Ennis will take a significant step January 7 toward securing a legitimate welterweight title shot.
BoxingScene.com has learned that the talented contender from Philadelphia will fight Ukraine’s Karen Chukhadzhian that night for the IBF interim 147-pound championship. Their 12-round fight will be the co-feature of a Showtime Pay-Per-View telecast that Gervonta Davis and Hector Luis Garcia will headline at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
The Ennis-Chukhadzhian contest is expected to be officially announced Monday in Washington as part of a press conference to promote the Davis-Garcia event.
Ennis (29-0, 27 KOs, 1 NC) is ranked number one among the IBF’s welterweight contenders for champion Errol Spence Jr., who owns the WBA and WBC belts as well. Chukhadzhian (21-1, 11 KOs) is ranked fourth by the IBF, but he is the leading available contender to face Ennis because the second spot in the IBF’s rankings is unoccupied and third-rated Vergil Ortiz Jr. is expected to face Eimantas Stanionis next for the unbeaten Lithuanian’s WBA world welterweight title.
The 25-year-old Ennis is a heavy favorite to beat Chukhadzhian. The emerging Ennis obviously would prefer to challenge Spence for his belts, but beating Chukhadzhian for the IBF’s interim title would give Ennis leverage in his pursuit of a fight against Spence (28-0, 22 KOs).
The 32-year-old Spence is expected to face longtime rival Keith Thurman next. Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs, 1 NC), a former WBA/WBC champ from Clearwater, Florida, was named the WBC’s mandatory challenger for Spence at its annual convention last month in Acapulco, Mexico.
Ennis is considered a high-risk, low-reward proposition for the 32-year-old Spence, whose high-profile fight with Terence Crawford fell apart late in October. Ennis isn’t affiliated with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, either, which has made it more difficult for his handlers to secure fights against PBC-backed boxers like Spence and Thurman.
In his most recent action, Ennis knocked out previously unbeaten Canadian contender Custio Clayton (19-1-1, 12 KOs) in the second round May 14 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
The 26-year-old Chukhadzhian, a Kiev native who resides in Germany, has won 20 straight bouts since he lost his second professional fight in April 2015. Chukhadzhian hasn’t beaten a legitimate welterweight contender, however, since his three-round, split-decision defeat to Andrii Velikovskyi in Velikovskyi’s pro debut as part of the “Super 8” junior middleweight tournament in Kiev.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.