The man many believe is the next welterweight king takes a major step toward that throne when he faces former world champion Sergey Lipinets Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
In the ring, Jaron “Boots” Ennis is a blur of activity, his head ducking under punches, his hands ricocheting off opponents, legs darting this way and that, feet shifting from southpaw to conventional.
Against the normally rugged Bakhtiyar Eyubov last year, Ennis’ hands were so much quicker, his arms undulating like windshield wipers, Ennis at times appeared fuzzy, out of focus, his movements lost in a haze of turbocharged motion.
But for all of his speed and in-ring hustle, Ennis’ career and the way he and his handlers have orchestrated his rise up the welterweight rankings has been calculated and methodical, a study in careful and patient decision-making.
As some of Ennis’ contemporaries such as Shakur Stevenson and Teofimo Lopez have wasted little time in securing title fights and career-defining matchups, the 5-10 Ennis, who turned professional in 2016 after a standout amateur career, has chosen a different trajectory.
Instead of rushing inexorably toward a title, Ennis has stuffed his schedule with stay-busy fights, steadily increasing his level of competition, from brawlers to boxers, southpaw to conventional, bit by bit, style by style, as if he and his handlers were baking a delicious layer cake.
While some of today’s young phenoms seem preoccupied with calling out the best in the division, desperate to prove themselves, Ennis, the scion of a Philly boxing family, has chosen to jog toward his moment, instead of barreling into it.
In fact, last year when ESPN.com listed boxing’s top stars under 25 years of age, Ennis, at just 23, had the highest number of fights for someone who had never contended for a world title.
But ask Ennis (26-0, 24 knockouts) about the careful way he has gone about piloting his career, and he smiles knowingly, as if that detail was supposed to remain hush-hush, classified information.
Regarded as the next great fighter to emerge from the boxing rich city of Philly, Ennis, who has drawn comparisons to a young Roy Jones Jr., says his methodical and restrained ascension, his anti-meteoric rise, is all by design.
“That’s how I wanted to come up in the pros and that’s how my dad wanted me to come up in the pros,” he told PBC of his father, Derek “Bozy” Ennis, his trainer and co-manager. “I could have been 8-0 with eight knockouts and fighting for a world title, but we chose a different road, and I feel like this road is better because I got to develop as a pro and become like a seasoned vet even at my age.”
That smoothly paved road may get a little rougher on Saturday when Ennis steps up in class and takes on the more experienced former title holder Sergey Lipinets, in the 12-round main event of a SHOWTIME-televised tripleheader (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. in a Premier Boxing Champions event.
The card’s chief supporting bout features Eimantas Stanionis as he faces former title challenger Thomas Dulorme in a 12-round WBA welterweight title eliminator. The telecast opens with IBF junior bantamweight champion Jerwin “Pretty Boy” Ancajas defending his belt against Jonathan Rodríguez in a 12-round bout.
“ This is the start right here. ” Undefeated Welterweight Contender - Jaron Ennis
Because of Ennis’ inability to secure a fight with any of the leading welterweights (until now) — his handlers claim that most of the big names saw little upside in facing Ennis — some have questioned the wisdom of crowning him the future of the division. But Ennis expects this bout to quiet those skeptics and serve notice that he is indeed ready, or at least on the doorstep to facing blue-chippers like Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, etc.
“After I do my thing and make a statement and come out with a knockout, I feel like I’m one or two fights away from having a world title shot,” Ennis said. “You just have to be patient and wait your turn,” he went on. “And now it’s my turn. This is the start right here. This is the type of fight I’ve been waiting for. Now I get to show what I really can do.”
Ennis credits his family with keeping him grounded and staying patient. His brothers, Derek “Pooh” Ennis and Farah Ennis were pro fighters who achieved moderate success but never ascended to the world class level. Derek went 24-5-1 record, losing his last bout to Caleb Truax in 2014; Farah went 22-2, dropping a decision to Badou Jack in 2013 and retiring two years later. Both tasted the national spotlight on networks like Showtime and ESPN, but never won a world title. What they lacked in professional credentials they make up for in accrued wisdom passed down to their kid brother Jaron. Their father, who trained all of them, has said that Jaron has learned from Derek and Farah’s slip ups during their careers.
“I feel like they definitely helped me deal with this, just being around both my brothers because they fought on national TV, with the cameras always around with them,” Jaron said. “They’ve been in the game, so they know and they see things that will help my career.”
While Lipinets (16-1-1, 12 knockouts) has less fights than Ennis, his career was fast-tracked early on, after he turned pro following a standout kickboxing career. The hard-charging Lipinets picked up a title in just his 13th fight and faced the former pound-for-pound entrant Mikey Garcia after that.
Ennis claims not to compare his progress with that of other fighters, including those from the 2016 Olympic class. However, it’s clear he’s aware of what his colleagues are up to. After winning a silver medal at the Rio Games, Shakur Stevenson won a featherweight title in his 13th fight. Teofimo Lopez, an Olympian for Honduras, captured a lightweight title in his 15th bout and out-pointed Vasyl Lomachenko in a star-making performance a year later.
Despite owning a No. 1 ranking at 141 pounds, Ennis missed out on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in Rio after he lost to Gary Antuanne Russell, the offspring of another boxing family, at the Olympic trials box-offs after Ennis edged Russell by a split decision earlier in the competition.
Back then, Ennis was a glimmer of the fighter he is now, more of a mover and safety-first fighter than the offensive powerhouse he is today.
Ennis smiles good naturedly at his colleagues’ success, confident that his time in the sun will come. His last fight ended in a no-decision with opponent Chris van Heerden in December after the two clashed heads.
“Like I always say, ‘Everyone has a different road to a world title,’” Ennis said. “And mine is just taking a little longer, and I’m ok with that. I’m still learning and getting better and getting stronger and smarter. So, by the time I do fight for a world title, it’s going to be perfect for me. I’m going to be right there in the moment, able to do what I set out to do.”
And that will undoubtedly be worth the wait.
For a closer look at Ennis vs Lipinets, check out our fight night page.
- Ennis vs Lipinets