The undefeated welterweight title aims to deliver a standout performance against the dangerous Roiman Villa Saturday night on the Davis vs. Garcia SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View.
Rashidi Ellis is relaxed. He’s confident. You can hear it in his voice. You can see it in his demeanor. Above all, the 29-year-old welterweight seems settled for the first time in a long time.
Ellis comes from a boxing family. It’s entrenched in his DNA, in his limbs, his hands, his legs, his psyche. He lives and breathes the sport. Rashidi’s older brother, Ronald, has been in with the best, once going 11 rounds with two-time super middleweight world champion David Benavidez in March 2021. Rashidi’s younger sister, Rashida, fought in the Tokyo Olympics representing the United States as a lightweight.
When offered the chance for a breakout fight early in 2023, Rashidi jumped at the opportunity. This Saturday, January 7, “Speedy” Ellis (24-0, 15 KOs) will be taking on 29-year-old Venezuelan Roiman Villa (25-1, 24 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round IBF welterweight title eliminator that could spell dividends later this year if Ellis wins.
The bout is part of a stacked Premier Boxing Champions event headlined by two undefeated champions squaring off as WBA Lightweight World Champion and boxing superstar Gervonta “Tank” Davis faces Hector Luis García at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C, on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).
Training camp the last two months has been a welcome relief for Ellis, who fought for the first time in two years with a first-round knockout over Jose Marruffo in July 2022. The prowling, aggressive Ellis knocked down Marruffo, a late replacement, twice in the first two minutes of the fight. The first knockdown came from an overhand right to the chin with 1:41 left in the first, when Ellis playfully mentioned to his corner, “Like that?” The second knockdown was generated by a jolting left hook to the face, which Marruffo didn’t see coming.
“I’m doing great, just getting ready for this fight,” said Ellis, who’s from Lynn, Massachusetts, and is trained by Alex Rivera. “Training camp has been good. I feel really strong and I’m ready. I was trying to move from a contract that laid me up for two years. I was still in the gym, grinding, sparring great fighters. I was still active. Mentally, I feel I’m better, I feel I’m physically stronger, and my skills are a lot better, too.
“Everyone is going to see what I’m able to do January 7. I know Villa is a strong fighter. He’s a fighter who comes forward and looks for the knockout all the time. I’ll stick and move and not play his game.”
“ I want to show people my skills and show that I’m the man in the welterweight division. ” Undefeated Welterweight Contender - Rashidi Ellis
This could be Ellis’ coming-out year. He’s fighting on the same undercard as Philadelphia’s Jaron “Boots” Ennis, the rising 25-year-old welterweight star who is 29-0 with 27 knockouts, and who Ellis has been eying for some time. Ennis will be taking on undefeated Karen Chukhadzhian (21-1, 11 KOs) in a 12-round IBF title eliminator. Ellis would love a chance at the winner of that fight.
But, he realizes, he’s going to have the jump his own hurdle in Villa to do it. Villa, a lanky, power-punching 5-foot-8, went the distance for the first time in three years and five fights when he beat Janelson Figueroa Bocachica by eight-round unanimous decision in his U.S. debut back in September. Villa likes to go to the body and possesses a powerful right uppercut. Though, Villa has never faced anyone as quick, or as skilled as Ellis, nor has he ever fought on a platform as large as he’ll be on Saturday night.
“Fighting (Ennis) would be a good fight, but after this fight, I’m looking to fight someone good and hopefully get one of those belts,” Ellis said. “This version of me is much more disciplined than I used to be, of course. In the time off, I had to stay disciplined to maintain (staying at welterweight). I love fast food and everything, I just can’t eat it (laughs).
“I have my weaknesses. But I have my own cook and I pay far more attention to my diet than I used to. I’ll turn 30 on May 7. I’ve been staying away from all the greasy stuff. I’m watching my conditioning. My sparring helped me stay sharp.”
Because he stays in constant shape, because he lives and breathes boxing, Ellis does not have to break off ring rust. One of his sparring partners for this fight happened to be Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade, the former WBA super welterweight and WBO middleweight world champion who is also fighting on the Davis-Garcia undercard, taking on Demond Nicholson in a scheduled 10-rounder.
“I want to show people my skills and show that I’m the man in the welterweight division,” Ellis said. “I want to show people my boxing abilities. I’m training for a 15-round fight. My last fight lasted one round, so I’m really prepared. I have a game plan, but I can switch that up during the fight.
“People will see me come out victorious, probably in the later rounds. It’s time to prove what I can do.”
For a closer look at Rashidi Ellis, check out his fighter page.