Last week ESPN ran an article where they ranked the best young boxers under the age of 25. Jaron 'Boots' Ennis came in seventh. One spot behind Ryan Garcia. (Yeah, it's pretty laughable).
This panel was made up of Mike Coppinger, Ben Baby, Tim Bradley, Nick Parkinson, Kel Dansby and Crystina Poncher.
It says here that Ennis -- who faces Thomas Dulorme as the semi-main attraction on this Saturday's Showtime broadcast from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas -- is vastly underrated, here. Because when it comes to pure talent and ability, he makes an argument for being number one on this list.
Photo Credit: Showtime Sports/Amanda Westcott
You don't have to take my word for it, listen to the words of Stephen 'Breadman' Edwards, a respected trainer from Philadelphia, who has a keen eye for the sport and does a regular mailbag for Boxingscene.com.
"He has the potential, I believe, to be win the most special trifecta as far as three-division champions in boxing, which is 147, 154 an 160," said Edwards, who is also a historian of the game. "Every single fighter who has ever won those three particular titles are like first ballot Hall-of-Famers, great, great fighters. I mean, the least acclaimed of those fighters is Miguel Cotto -- and he's a great fighter."
Edwards, who is best known for developing Julian Williams into a unified junior middleweight champion, points out that the names who qualified for this elite category are the likes of: Robert Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Felix Trinidad, and Emile Griffith.
And before the 154 pound weight class was really recognized, the great Sugar Ray Robinson, Mickey Walker and Carmen Basilio were champions at welterweight and middleweight.
"Those guys were special, I mean, we don't have any welterweights from this era that have won a title at 154," Edwards continued. "It's just harder because you're dealing with bigger guys, and Ennis, I just think he can do it."
While it's relatively easy to win multiple weight classes in regions there isn't a deep concentration of boxers, the area from 147 to 160 is usually packed with the most talent in the sport.
So what makes the 24 year old Ennis so good?
Well, he's has a 5'10 frame, long limbed, and he has power in both hands. What makes him tricky is that he can switch-hit like Terence Crawford, while possessing an abundance of athleticism. All that is topped off by a background rooted in the tough gym culture of Philadelphia. Ennis also comes from a boxing family, his older brothers had professional careers, and is under the tutelage of his father, Derek 'Bozy' Ennis.
All that was on display in his last outing, when he dispatched the respected Sergey Lipinets in six rounds back in April.
For years, those in the Philly area have known about this phenom. It was seven years ago that Edwards saw firsthand his talents. Back then 'J-Rock' was an aspiring young contender, looking to move up the ladder as he prepared for his bout with Eliezer Gonzalez. Edwards called Ennis' father asking if they would be willing to give them some work.
Edwards recalled, "He came down and he sparred, I was like... 'Wow'. I mean, at the time Julian was like really, really dominant in the gym versus world champions, he was knocking guys out every other week in the gym. World champions had him in camp and he was completely dominating them -- and this kid performed well. I said, 'this kid's good.'"
At the time Ennis was just 17. Back then, he had just a few bouts under his belt. Now, he's 27-0(25 KOs), and rated in the top six of all four of the major sanctioning bodies. He's has high as number three in the IBF. But the reality is that he's the type of guy that will have to be a mandatory challenger to receive a title bid.
"His dad and I are pretty good friends, I said to him that he's not going to get his shot unless he's a mandatory," said Edwards, who began to really break down just how dangerous Ennis is perceived to be. "See, I look at 'real' title defenses and very rarely do you see an established champion, a pound-for-pound level guy, fight a title defense against a guy who has more than a 40-percent chance of beating him, who's never been a champion."
Photo Credit: Showtime Sports, Amanda Westcott
It's one thing to give a title shot to a well-known fighter, who has won belts in lower weight classes. They have usually built a name for themselves, and bring about a lucrative payday.
Guys as talented as Ennis, who don't have that track record, come with a surgeon generals warning.
These types of title fights happen, albeit rarely.
"Evander Holyfield fought Riddick Bowe - that's a 'real' title defense. Bernard Hopkins fighting Jermain Taylor, and Taylor fighting Kelly Pavlik -- those are serious, serious title defenses," pointed out Edwards.
"I'm talking about guys who have never been a champion before, and he's breathing down your neck saying, 'I WANT YOU'. That's like Wilfredo Benitez have to fight Sugar Ray Leonard, or Pipino Cuevas having to fight Thomas Hearns.
"That's what this is the equivalent of."
In his view, this would be the most difficult title defense against a boxer who had never had a belt around their waist previously, since Michael Nunn-James Toney and Holyfield-Bowe I, which took place in 1991 and 1992, respectively.
"That's how hard of a title defense I think he is."
Currently, Ring Magazine rates 'Boots' number seven at welterweight. But Edwards has him at number three just behind Crawford and Errol Spence, despite a resume' that for the time being is lacking in marquee names.
"I don't think Ennis would be the favorite to beat Spence or Crawford, but there would be a lot of people who'd pick him to win that fight," said Edwards.
Philadelphia is a fight city, with a vast history of producing blue-chip boxers. Their last great one was Hopkins, who was an individual who got everything out of his ability. He could be considered the ultimate overachiever who exceeded every reasonable expectation. That his intangibles and discipline were really his greatest asset.
Is 'Boots' a better talent with more upside than 'the Executioner'?
"I don't know if you're phrasing it right," countered Edwards,"because he still has to apply his talent to the top level. So I'll say: he's the most talented young fighter that I've seen. But Bernard Hopkins was a champion for 20 years. He's one of the top five ever in middleweight history, he actually had a hell-of-a light heavyweight run. So I don't want to go THAT far because it's more than talent."
He has a point, Ennis has passed the eye test with flying colors, but it is potential over production at the moment. This story has yet to be fully written.
"It's how you apply the talent, how you age, it's genetics, can he take a punch? But I will say, in the gym as far as just sparring and how he looks in there -- he's the best fighter I've seen in the city."
ESPN TOP 25
For those interested, here's the article I referenced above from the world-wide leader....
The last K9's Corner talked about late start time and the delay in bouts for last Saturday nights ESPN card in Atlanta featuring the Jamel Herring-Shakur Stevenson bout at State Farm Arena. Despite the main event not starting till after midnight, the network still pulled in a very strong number for that broadcast.
Todd duBoef, the president of Top Rank, says that the boxing audience is conditioned to late start times, and that the story-telling in these telecasts are vital. Edwards, who's had many fighters on televised shows, says that these long delays aren't good for the boxers, as they are often stuck in the dressing rooms for several hours, long before they even go up to the ring.
The rating for this past weekend was very good. But you wonder what that figure would be if the main event was closer to prime time.
Perhaps a middle ground can be found.
Edwards' Twitter accounts is: @BreadmanBoxing....The Showtime broadcast begins at 10 pm, ET/7 pm, PT.... While on ESPN+ from the Hulu Theater in New York, you have a card that features a junior welterweight contest between Jose Zepeda and Josue Vargas with a bantamweight bout between Carlos Caraballo and Jonas Sultan serving as the semi-main....Also, in the afternoon DAZN has a card from England was supposed to be headlined by Dillian Whyte(out) and Otto Wallin. Now this show is highlighted by the female bout between Chantelle Cameron and Mary McGee, also heavyweight Alan Babic takes on Lucas Browne....Is Roman Roy of 'Succession' the funniest character on TV?....Hold on, this is the final season of 'Insecure' on HBO?!?!?....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....