It's time for Jaron "Boots" Ennis to step up in competition.
He hasn't really been challenged to date, but the 21-year-old Philadelphia fighter (21-0, 19 knockouts) is expected to face his first real test when he takes on fellow Philadelphian Raymond Serrano (25-4, 10 KOs) on Nov. 16 in a 10-round welterweight bout at 2300 Arena. The Ennis-Serrano fight will be part of a three- or four-fight card on Showtime's ShoBox: The New Generation telecast, which will begin at 9:30 p.m.
Ennis is coming off a convincing victory in July, when he dealt Armando Alvarez his first career loss in 19 fights, a third-round knockout in at WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa. That fight, Ennis' first television appearance, was supposed to be the first real test of his career. Instead, Ennis easily stopped Alvarez to cement his status as one of the fastest-rising young fighters in the welterweight division and an increasingly notable player in the Philadelphia boxing scene.
"My only criticism at all … was that he played around a little bit," promoter Chris Middendorf said of that fight, in which Ennis knocked down Alvarez four times in Round 3 alone. But the victory meant that not only would Ennis' reputation improve, but so would his level of competition, too. "The fights are going to get tougher — he's going to be pushed to go the distance," Middendorf added. "He's not going to have time to play any games."
That's expected to be the case against Serrano.
Ennis has stopped his last 11 opponents, all within four rounds. He said his toughest fight to date was a unanimous-decision victory against James Winchester (20-13, 8 KOs) last year, and even that was scored a decisive 60-53 by all three judges.
"Every fight, I just go in there and have fun," Ennis said. "Other people do this for the money; I do this because this is fun for me and it's what I love to do. I love fighting in front of people. I love putting on a show."
But then again, it's been only 2 1/2 years since Ennis moved up from the amateur to professional ranks, and Middendorf said his client is "still growing into his man strength." That's recent enough that Ennis can speak at length about the changes he had to make during the transition: becoming more patient, relying more on his jab, sitting down more on his power punches.
Quickness is Ennis' most impressive trait, though — it renders the plodding implications of his "Boots" nickname laughable. He slyly danced around a lost-looking Alvarez throughout their July fight.
"It's about the punches they can't see," Ennis said.
Both of Ennis' two older brothers had decent boxing careers of their own, and his father is a notable local trainer. But the youngest of the bunch looks poised to blow past all of them and into the national spotlight soon.
"I wouldn't be this far with him if I didn't think he could be a world champion," Middendorf said. "He trains as hard as anybody you'll ever run into, and he's got a natural-born skill set."