By Jake Donovan
Jaron “Boots” Ennis has virtually been without peer since turning pro nearly three years ago, but the unbeaten blue-chip prospect is finally in for a major challenge—this in a court of law to decipher his current promotional status.
A lawsuit seeking Declaratory Judgment Action has been filed by the legal team representing Chris Middendorf, who claims his Victory Boxing Promotions company has a binding contract with Philadelphia’s Ennis (22-0, 20KOs).
The purpose of such measures taken is not for monetary reward, but more so to clear the air on who truly represents the rising prospect.
“Chris sued “Boots” Ennis and asked that a court rule that his existing (promotional) contract is valid,” Michael Miller, Middendorf’s attorney and noted longtime boxing personality informed BoxingScene.com. “We’ve been involved in this sport, doing this for a very long time and we know that the signed documents we have confirm Victory Boxing Promotions as Boots’ promoter.
“It’s not to say that he cannot fight; he just can’t fight without Chris and Victory Boxing Promotions being involved.”
The movement stems from action taken by Ennis’ internal team, having sent out a press release pledging their allegiance to Middendorf’s former business partner and one-time noted manager Cameron Dunkin. In the release, Ennis claimed that he was part of Dunkin’s Now Boxing Promotions and that his only involvement with Middendorf and Victory Boxing came when Dunkin was still a part of the company and with Chris working alongside him.
“Chris was telling people he had a promotional contract when he didn’t. He made meetings with networks without telling me, he even offered to sell a contract he didn’t have to other promoters,” Dunkin said in the release, which sparsely still exists as most sites—including BoxingScene.com—declined to run due to lack of clarity. “Chris has the nerve to threaten to sue people for dealing with me when I’m the actual promoter.”
Dunkin’s sentiments are echoed by the boxer and his immediate team, although also lend to the confusion over the initial contract signed in claiming they now fight for Dunkin’s Now Boxing Promotions.
“I signed with Cameron Dunkin not Chris Middendorf,” claimed Ennis, whose legal wrangling has left him out of the ring since a Showtime-televised 2nd round knockout of Raymond Serrano last November. “Chris worked for Cameron, so it was really strange when he started acting like he was in charge, like he was the promoter.
“My pops (Derrick “Bozy” Ennis) goes back a long ways with Cameron and I got to know him really well when everybody was recruiting me out of the amateurs. Cameron was the guy we signed with. I never had any dealings or agreements with Chris Middendorf other than him working for Cameron.”
Earlier media reports, however, indicate that Ennis signed with Dunkin as a manager, and a promotional contract with Victory Boxing Promotions, which has always been headed by Middendorf. The boxer was quoted ahead of his first main event in his Philadelphia hometown as to having been taken aback by both Dunkin and Middendorf.
“To me, that was the best choice,” Ennis told PhillyBoxingHistory.com in 2017. “I saw how they moved (Terence) Crawford, and I liked it. So, I was like, ‘I’m going to go this way’. All the other offers weren’t the best fit for me. I think it was the best one.”
Middendorf and the current Victory Boxing Promotions team obviously feel the same—enough to where the veteran matchmaker-turned-promoter felt compelled to make the rounds with external promoters seeking Ennis’ ring services.
Such measures clarified that any future business to be done with the young prospect will need to come with his involvement and blessing.
“Jaron Ennis remains under promotional agreement to my company, Victory Boxing Promotions,” Middendorf states in a de facto cease-and-desist email to several promotional outlets, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com. “Jaron signed a promotional agreement with me and I have exceeded every requirement of that agreement.
“Due to a recent press release issued by Jaron and others which contained the false statement about Jaron not being under contract with Victory, I have sued him for breach of contract and I have requested that the court declare my contact is valid for years to come.”
The legal issues come at an unfortunate time for Ennis, who is just 21 and is coming off of sensational consecutive knockout performances on Showtime’s ShoBox series.
He made his network debut last July, scoring a 3rd round knockout of previously unbeaten Armando Alvarez in Sloan, Iowa. The feat was followed up by a performance befitting a Philly homecoming, slaughtering Serrano in two rounds last November.
While the purpose of the lawsuit is to clarify the existing promotional, the intent is not at all to stall Ennis’ career.
“We will figure this out,” Miller states of the current mess. “We’ve asked the court for a Declaratory Judgement Action to rule that our contract is binding. If it’s not ruled as such, the court has to explain to us why it is not the case.
“In the meantime, he can still fight—just not for anybody us, without our involvement. If someone wants to put Boots on their show and Chris is able to work out a deal, of course we’d be in favor of that. He’s a terrific young fighter, and we don’t gain anything by not having him fight. If he’s sidelined by a lawsuit, it doesn’t do us any good.”
Conversely, the approach being taken by Ennis and his team is also counterproductive.
“Showtime has been very interested in his career,” Miller notes, referring to his pair of network fights and with plenty of more business to be done. “He’s leaving a lot of money on the table by not fighting. With all of the networks and money involved in boxing right now, just think how many fighters would love the opportunities he’s leaving on the table."
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox