So, for the record, it is supposed to be “Boops,” not “Boots.” But once it was misheard, and someone thought dad Derrick “Bozy” Ennis called his lil’ guy “Boots” at the gym, “Boots” stuck.
Truth be told, “Boots” might be a better fit for the 24-0 (22 KO) welterweight contender — yeah, he’s not been a “prospect” for a spell now — than “Boops,” or, as his mom sometimes calls him, “Boopsie.”
Ah, but regardless of the nickname, the skill set would stave off any lengthy session of razzing, because the 22-year-old from a fighting family has a solid handle on pugilism.
You can judge for yourself when on Friday night in Atlantic City on Showtime, “Boots” seeks to do a Nancy Sinatra on the face of his toughest (on paper) test to date, Bakhtiyar Eyubov.
Before we get deeper into that, and look harder at what brought Boots to this place — where he’s seen as a dude on most every short list of beyond promising young talents who we can expect to see practicing the craft at a high level in one, five, maybe 10 years from now — one final point about the name.
”Who calls you Jaron?” I asked on a Wednesday afternoon phoner.
”Nobody, really,” said the fighter promoted by Cameron Dunkin, managed by Bozy Ennis (also his trainer) and Joseph Dunkin, brother of Cameron.
One reason you haven’t heard as much about Boots as his arsenal probably merits, he was involved in a tussle over his rights. Chris Middendorf believes he has rights to serve as promoter to Boots, and a court situation has played out with him and then manager-now promoter Cameron Dunkin. One wonders, has all that stuff, which made it so Ennis wasn’t his typical busy self in 2019 (two fights), made the boxer cynical? Or made him dislike the sport somewhat?
”It didn’t really bother me too much,” he replied. “I’ve stayed in the gym, focused on training, sparring. Just getting better. I kinda needed that break anyway, I’d had a lot of fights!”
That upbeat ‘tude shone through in my talk with the kid. Yes, he said, he does consciously try to look on that bright side.
That mindset got fashioned in Germantown, PA. “It was rough and gritty, my dad, Derrick, was a pro boxer, my brother ‘Pooh’ (aka Derek) and my other brother, Farah. I was in the gym from like nine months, before I could even walk, when I was crawling.”
Long time, and yes, he still digs it?
“Yeah, I do it because this is fun for me,” Boots said. “It’s hard to beat someone who has fun with boxing!”
And yes, he has benefited from dad and Farah, now 37, and Pooh, now 39, having done their time in the pro ranks.
“They tell me things all the time. ‘Learn from our mistakes.’ ‘Stay focused,’ they say. ‘Stay in the gym, a fight can pop up.’”
And lessons, ones you can’t learn from hearing wisdom passed down from brothers, pop up. In fight number 10, against 20-12 James Winchester, that was a night to learn. Elbows, headbutts, getting thrown to the ground, Boots says, gave him a better idea of how rough the sport can be when someone is fighting to feed their family.
“It made me grow as a person,” the hitter shared.
His last time out, he bested Demian Fernandez on Oct. 5, scoring a TKO-3 win.
“He was a good little fighter. I used my jab. Then I touched his body, broke him down slowly, came up top, got the stoppage.”
And of the 14-1-1 Eyubov, a 33-year-old coming off a loss to prospect Brian Ceballo, Ennis said, “I’m not sure, he’s shorter than me, I will line him up, and set him up for the KO. Is he the best I’ve faced on paper? I’m not sure, I don’t watch (tape of my foes). It’s different when you get in the ring with me.”
He’s on weight now (Wednesday), he reported, and 147 is where he’s staying for a spell.
“I will stay at 147, get belts, and after that, 154.”
You can call him a prospect still, or deem him a contender if you wish. “I don’t really worry about that stuff too much,” he stated.
Then, I confess, I asked Boots about whom he might like to target at 147. Do you watch a Crawford, Porter, Spence fight, and ponder how you’d look against those top tier craftsmen? Maybe I wanted to snag a pull-quote, something to conjure a bit of buzz.
“Who? I’ll go for whatever belt presents itself first,” said the boxer, currently rated No. 13 by the WBO and No. 15 by the IBF.
So, I said, kind of jokingly, you are not gonna talk any smack on anyone else, huh?
“I can’t wait to get into the ring with those guys you mentioned. I feel like I’m right now one of the best. I can’t wait to show the world I’m the best.”
So, no shit talking?
“They ask me all the time to talk shit. That’s just not me! I’d rather fight ‘em!”
”You’re not a real cocky dude, huh?” I said.
”Yeah, that’s just not me,” said Boots.
And there’s still confetti clinging around my apartment from New Year festivities. Resolutions are still in play for people with decent will-power. Does Boots have any he wants to share?
“I believe I will be a world champion in 2020, or early 2021. I want to keep following the path to a world championship.”
My three cents: He seems like a chill guy. I think I could have cracked wise, called him Boopsie, and he would have chuckled, tolerated the corny crack from the writer with grace. And he’s chill in the ring, to a point. He is mostly patient, but predatory. Boots doesn’t get over excited, he picks his spots and prizes accuracy. His attention to body work is impressive, he gets sweet leverage ripping left hooks to the body, but stays aware defensively, doesn’t over-commit and leave himself open for counters too often.
Either hand can hurt a foe, they should know. They must be aware coming in that Boots works adeptly as a lefty or righty.
See for yourself on Friday night. Showtime has boxing, a three-bout offering. WBA super middleweight champion Alicia Napoleon-Espinosa and IBF champion Elin Cederroos open the show, and Boots fights Eyubov next, before the Claressa Shields vs Ivana Habazin main event. People of a certain age might be humming along to themselves, as Ennis seeks to make a mark, and rise to 25-0:
These boots are made for walking
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you