Jaron “Boots” Ennis can only control what he can control, and that’s knocking out 23 of his first 25 opponents and using his impressive defensive work to wear down his foes.
What he can’t control is whom he fights. Ennis (25-0), a Germantown native, is one of the most exciting young welterweights in boxing, but he hasn’t fought any of the division’s elite.
“I think now they are starting to see that it’s not me, and it’s these guys that don’t want to fight me,” Ennis said. “All I’ve got to do is keep winning, keep bettering myself, keep being smart, keep being sharp each and every fight, and just keep climbing the ranks and make them have to fight me.”
If he keeps putting together defensive masterpieces and quick knockouts, the top-ranked fighters won’t avoid him much longer.
Saturday is Ennis' chance to gain more control when he fights 33-year-old Dominican Juan Carlos Abreu (23-5-1, 21 KOs) in a 10-round welterweight bout at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Showtime is televising the card.
The knockout has become an expectation in Ennis' matches, but no fighter has ever stopped Abreu. He believes his defensive ability and savvy approach won’t allow Ennis to be the first, but Boots has other plans.
I’m going to be in [the ring] doing my thing and making a statement on Saturday night and showing the welterweight division I’m not nothing to be played with.
“Like I always say before all my fights, we don’t look for the knockout; we set it up the right way and just let it come to us, and that’s what you’re going to see this fight,” Ennis said. “I want to be the first one to stop him.”
About seven years ago, Abreu was looking for a gym in Philadelphia to spar. His team got in contact with Ennis' father and trainer, Derek “Bozy” Ennis. Abreu sparred Ray Robinson first, then he went two or three rounds with the 16-year old Ennis.
“[Abreu] and Ray [were] going back and forth, but Boots went in there and controlled him, controlled everything,” Bozy Ennis said.
Ennis will be making some minor adjustments for this fight. He hasn’t been known for using his jab, but you can expect to see it more on Saturday.
“A lot of times when he fights, he’s so quick, he doesn’t have to use his jab as much as other guys do,” Bozy said. “I want him to use the jab more. You can sit back and relax or set your punches up behind the jab.”
For Ennis to become a main event fighter, one of the top welterweights will have to take a risk and fight him. More times than not, it’s not that fighters are scared, but the ramifications of losing to an up-and-comer like Ennis are bigger than losing to one of the established veterans.
“I’m a main event fighter, it’s just that it’s hard for Showtime to get fights for me,” Ennis said. “I bring the excitement, I bring everything. We just have to find the right opponent to make a quality main event.”
Philly’s rich boxing history is awaiting its next champion. Stephen “Cool Boy” Fulton will have his chance soon, Danny “Swift” Garcia’s fight with Errol Spence Jr. could make him a champion again, and Julian Williams should get an opportunity to redeem himself.
Ennis believes his chance will come early in 2021, and he won’t stop there. His goal is to be the undisputed champion of the welterweight division, which is widely regarded as the best in boxing.
So when you ask Ennis which fighter he wants to take on next, just find out who are the current champions, and you’ll get your answer. Right now, those names are Manny Pacquiao, Terence Crawford, Jamal James, and Spence.
Based on Ennis' rise, names like Keith Thurman and Yordenis Ugas would be better bets. Bozy Ennis mentioned interest in fighting Omar Figueroa, Abel Ramos, and Ivan Redkach — three fighters who have recently lost to topflight welterweights — as other options to stay on the trail of the champions.
Some fans want to see a match between Ennis and Virgil Ortiz, who is another exciting young welterweight with a promising future, but it all starts with the bout against Abreu. Knocking out Abreu would make Ennis' future path much more controllable, but stopping Abreu has been easier said than done for 29 other fighters.
“I’m going to be in [the ring] doing my thing and making a statement on Saturday night and showing the welterweight division I’m not nothing to be played with,” Ennis said.