One of these days, “Boots” is gonna walk all over you – “you” being the abundance of championship-level boxers in the welterweight division. A multifaceted pugilist, the ambidextrous Jaron Ennis (29-0, 27 KO) is steadily rising up the ranks, and should have everyone at 147 lbs on red alert.
There are many redeeming qualities that the Philadelphia native possesses in his repertoire. He is confident, comfortable in a multitude of stances, lightning-quick, and powerful beyond what meets the eye.
The man has never been past round six in any fight of his professional career. There’s little not to like about the 25-year-old fighter, and now boxing fans must be asking, when will he be ushered into the mix of a robust welterweight stack of competition, and who should he face first?
Before surmising his pay-per-view breakout, let’s go through his strengths and potential weaknesses.
A Diversified Fighting Style
Perhaps Ennis’ greatest advantage over his competition is his ability to switch between the orthodox and southpaw stances. Coupled with this are his cat-like reflexes and comfort moving around the ring, often quasi-dancing.
In his greatest test to date, against former junior welterweight titleholder Sergey Lipinets, he switched stances each round. Ennis started orthodox, switching to southpaw in round two, and then alternated round-by-round. Doing so kept Lipinets unsure and on his toes, as it does to other fighters.
However, stances can only go so far, and must be backed up with additional tangibles. Ennis, throughout nearly all of his fights, has proven to be the aggressor early. His relentless jab disrupts the opposing fighter from feeling him out on their end and establishing distance. In his fights against Lipinets and most recently Custio Clayton, he displayed an uncanny ability to double jab, throwing two consecutive stunners with the same hand.
But with this comes a minor flaw. Here and there — which may be more significant than the phraseology suggests — Ennis jumps forward when throwing jabs and power punches alike, leaving both feet. Rather than lunging forward and taking a step toward his opponent, he leaps, and simultaneously shifts to the side to dodge a counter punch.
This is very akin to Shawn Porter or Manny Pacquiao, both habitual aggressors. Both used a multitude of feints, shuffling of the feet, and “leaps” to score points. Yet, we’ve seen how such a style of fighting fared against fighters with stout defense, the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Errol Spence Jr. Ennis may need to clean this up before graduating to better competition.
Confidence Upstairs Has a Trickle Down Effect
Part of being the aggressor indicates how sure a fighter feels of himself. Boots comes into every fight on the attack, walking his opponents down. In many cases, he wears down opponents with jabs early, both to the head and body, where he is extremely effective.
But in his fight against Armando Alvarez, he unloaded a barrage of combinations from the onset. Uncustomarily for many fighters out of the gate, Ennis wasted no time in letting Alvarez know just how little respect he had for his pugilism.
His devastating body shots inflicted pain, the sort that Alvarez couldn’t hide in his facial expressions, ultimately succumbing to the erosion with two knockdowns in round three, before ultimately being stopped.
Ennis’ confidence often leads to him toying with his opponents. In all three mentioned fights, he channeled his inner Roy Jones Jr, swinging his right arm like Popeye the Sailor Man, or putting his hands down in taunting fashion.
Defense Wins Championships in Boxing, Too
Ennis is very proficient in protecting himself, where credit must be given to his corner — spearheaded by father and trainer Derrick “Bozy” Ennis — for instilling in him great defensive fundamentals.
Ennis is rarely stationary, utilizing ring space at his disposal. His head movement is elite. Yes, elite. He sees punches before they come, and can dodge with the best of them. He is adept at the “Philly Shell” style, which he brings out on occasion, sensically pertaining to his roots.
But another minor flaw is his vulnerability to get hit upstairs; notably, he ingested a flush uppercut against Alvarez. What might have been the biggest shot he’s taken came against Lipinets, where he ate a clean and mean right hook to the jaw in round two. This could be easily fixed with a more serious approach.
Once Boots is faced with competition whose name alone demands respect, it is safe to say his antics will likely switch more toward stoicism.
Potential Fights Moving Forward
There are a slew of fighters Ennis will have to conquer before being worthy to grace the squared circle with the likes of Errol Spence Jr or Terence Crawford, so one should pump the brakes in shooting him to the top. But there are several former titleholders against whom he can prove himself.
Thurman is a hard-hitting former unified titlist who loves going toe-to-toe with opponents and controls the tempo of a fight very well. The veteran slugger would show Ennis a new style and level of skill he hasn’t seen before.
Thurman hasn’t been as active as he’d have liked in recent times, missing two-and-a-half years from the sport before returning in February against Mario Barrios. Coming off of injury, rest, and a win, a fight with Ennis would be mutually beneficial to both fighters. For “One Time,” it will be a litmus test to see if he can ascend back to the level he was at a few years back, worthy of a bout with the top two fighters in the division. For Boots, he’ll know just how much closer he is to capturing the elusive championships.
“The Problem” has encountered several in recent years. He’s lost two of his last four fights, only registering one win in that span. His ego and braggadocio has taken a hit, but squaring up against Ennis could be a major bounce-back for the 33-year-old.
A win against Broner would give Boots a victory on his resume against a big name, one with similar attributes on offense and defense. According to Compubox, in his last 10 fights, Ennis has landed 40 percent or more of his power punches. Pitted against Broner, whose once-heralded defense has been cracked, that could spell victory for the aspiring contender.
The last 147 lb titleholder not named Crawford or Spence could be in line for a booster fight that could give him a case for another title shot. Ugas is a well-rounded fighter who is fundamentally sound.
On defense, when faced with an onslaught of combinations, he has a tendency to crouch his body and brace too much, eliminating ample opportunities for counters. Nonetheless, the former champion would be a major victory for Ennis, and vice versa on Ugas’ side as he looks to come back strong.