ATLANTIC CITY – Cameron Dunkin figured he’d have little trouble finding a ranked welterweight willing to fight Jaron Ennis on Friday night.
Ennis’ promoter was afforded about twice as much money from this Showtime license fee to find an opponent than he was for the 22-year-old Ennis’ previous appearance on that premium cable network three months ago. Dunkin underestimated the difficulty of his task.
Before Bakhtiyar Eyubov accepted a low-six-figure purse for facing Ennis, Dunkin estimated that he went through a list of 25 potential opponents. One representative asked for $350,000 for his fighter to box one of the sport’s top prospects in the second of three fights Showtime will televise from Ocean Resort Casino.
“No one wants to fight him,” Dunkin told BoxingScene.com. “We call all over the world. And anyone who will fight him, the guy who has him wants three options [on Ennis]. You know, they want a piece of him. Or they go, ‘Why would I do this?’ If they’ve got a guy who’s 18-0, 20-0, they don’t wanna do it because they wanna get a shot for their guy. And [Ennis] doesn’t have the name, so they’re better off fighting a bigger name and getting a payday than fighting him. It’s already been really, really tough to get people to fight him. And it’s only gonna get worse after this.”
Philadelphia’s Ennis is consistently listed as a 50-1 favorite to beat Kazakhstan’s Eyubov on the Claressa Shields-Ivana Habazin undercard at Ocean’s Ovation Hall.
Eyubov (14-1-1, 12 KOs, 1 NC) lost an eight-round unanimous decision to a lesser prospect, Brian Ceballo (11-0, 6 KOs), in his last fight, June 8 at Madison Square Garden in New York. In his prior encounter, Eyubov settled for an eight-round majority draw with Mexican journeyman Jose Luis Rodriguez (25-13-1, 13 KOs).
In Ennis, the shorter, slower, 33-year-old Eyubov will encounter an uncommon combination of intelligence, power, speed and tenacity. Promoter Lou DiBella isn’t affiliated with Ennis in any way, but the former HBO executive is looking forward to watching him perform from a ringside seat Friday night.
“This kid’s an animal,” DiBella said. “I think that this kid is a beast. No B.S., in terms of innate, God-given ability, I think he’s the best prospect in the United States. I’ve got no dog in the fight, but I keep it real – I love this kid. I love his nastiness in the ring. I love his intelligence in the ring. I just think he’s a very gifted fighter. Fighters don’t wanna get in the ring with someone they know is an animal. And this kid is an animal.”
Like most gifted fighters chasing greatness, Ennis wants to fight the top opponents in his weight class as soon as possible. The 2015 national Golden Gloves champion is just trying to remain patient as the process of securing formidable foes for him becomes more laborious.
“It don’t bother me because I’m just gonna keep winning, keep doing me, stay locked in and keep doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” Ennis said. “I know it’s gonna be hard to get the fights I want because a lot of guys don’t wanna fight me. It’s because of my style. I fight from both sides. I’m strong. I’m fast. I’ve got good defense. I’ve got everything. So, it’s gonna be hard for them to find a way to beat me. It’s gonna hard to get the fights, but it’s gonna happen. I’m gonna keep winning until there’s a point where they have to fight me, because I’ll be right there.”
Ennis expects to fight at least three times before earning his first welterweight title fight either by the end of this year or early in 2021. Getting a title shot could become problematic, unless Ennis – who’s ranked No. 13 by the WBO and No. 15 by the IBF – moves into position to become the mandatory challenger for a welterweight champion.
Terence Crawford owns the WBO welterweight title. Errol Spence Jr. holds the IBF 147-pound championship.
The respectful Ennis isn’t the type to call out unbeaten champions, though the fighter nicknamed “Boots” is confident that his promising career is about to take off.
“Every time I fight, I give y’all something different,” Ennis said. “Every time I fight, I get better and better, stronger, faster. And Friday night, you’re gonna see a sharp, fast, strong, more developed fighter. I think this is the year that everyone will see that I’m an elite fighter.”
Dunkin considers Ennis an elite fighter already, even though he hasn’t beaten an established 147-pound contender, let alone a welterweight champion.
His promoter was particularly impressed by Ennis’ last performance, a third-round stoppage of Demian Daniel Fernandez (12-2, 5 KOs) on October 5 in Flint, Michigan. Ennis switched stances, overwhelmed Argentina’s Fernandez with his hand speed, accuracy and angles, and made Fernandez take a knee several seconds before their scheduled 10-rounder was stopped.
“He’s the best fighter I’ve ever signed – bar none,” said Dunkin, who has managed several elite talents. “Including Crawford, including Donaire, including [Mikey] Garcia, Diego Corrales, Timothy Bradley. I can go on and on. I’ve had 35 world champions, but no one like this, not even close.
“I hate to say stuff like that because so many people say stupid things early. But when I saw him in Michigan in his last fight, I didn’t know what to say because he reminded me so much of Roy Jones. The speed, the power, the distance, the reflexes. He’s got power. He can knock you out with one shot. He can beat you down and knock you out. He can box. He can go backwards. He can go forward. He’s just been groomed unbelievably.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.