On paper, Jaron “Boots” Ennis (26-0, 24 KOs) is one of the brightest prospects in boxing, one many have pegged as the future of the welterweight division.
However, the boxing community’s expectations for Ennis pale in comparison to those he’s set for himself. This Saturday, December 19, he takes another step toward achieving those goals when he faces veteran Chris Van Heerden (28-2-1, 12 KOs) in a 12-round co-feature on SHOWTIME (9:00 pm, ET/6:00 pm, PT).
Ennis was originally slated to face Thomas Dulorme until Dulorme tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to withdraw. Enter South Africa’s Van Heerden, a 33-year-old southpaw whose faced some of the division’s best over the course of his 14-year career —including unified champion Errol Spence Jr., who stopped Van Heerden in 2015.
“I feel like Dulorme had the bigger name and he fought more guys, but [Van Heerden] has a better record and he fought Spence too, so I feel like it evened out for me,” said Ennis in a recent interview with Round By Round Boxing.
“It’s gonna be the same outcome. I’m gonna do what I need to do, fight my fight, and get that knockout.”
Nevertheless, Van Heerden represents a significant step up in class for Ennis. Yet the 23-year-old pugilist is unbothered by the magnitude of the moment, an attribute that can be attributed to his background in the sport.
A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ennis comes from a boxing family. His father, Derek “Bozy” Ennis Sr. boxed professionally until he hung up his gloves in 1984 following the passing of his trainer Al Styles Sr.
The eldest Ennis then switched to training, guiding all three of his sons, Derek Jr., known as “Pooh”, Farah, and Jaron, in the squared circle.
A young Jaron began throwing punches almost as soon as he learned how to make a fist.
“What drives me is my family and to take the Ennis name to a different level and just being great,” said Ennis.
Derek Jr. and Farah enjoyed respectable careers until they retired in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Boots, on the other hand, is the family’s shining star, finding immediate success under his father’s tutelage—with the help of his brothers, who each play a part in his training.
It began in the amateurs, where Ennis amassed a 58-3 record, winning four national championships, the Golden Gloves, and becoming an alternate for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. Ennis then turned pro, where he’s currently riding a 16-fight knockout streak and is yet to be extended beyond six rounds.
While those stats are enough to make a fight fan swoon, it’s how Ennis wins that sets him apart from the rest. While generally reserved outside of the ring, his swagger is unmistakable in it, blending speed, power and showmanship with high-level technique.
Ennis is proficient from a righty or lefty stance, and though he appears to be enjoying himself in the ring, his killer instinct when he smells blood is downright frightening.
Whether he can do that against a fighter of Van Heerden’s caliber remains to be seen. But for Ennis, this is just another fight on his way to the top and, according to him, another KO victim.
“After I do my thing on Saturday and I win in dominating fashion, hopefully we can get one of those big names or somebody in the top five or something like that,” said Ennis.
“I’m ready. I been ready,” said Ennis.” “[I want] all the world champions and the former world champions that recently had the belts too. That’s what I’m waiting on.”
Despite Ennis’ talent, the gauntlet at 147-pounds is daunting for all. The division includes champions like Spence, Terence Crawford, and Manny Pacquiao, to go along with a slew of contenders, nearly all of whom are former titlists.
Ennis relishes the idea of facing the aforementioned. An impressive win over Van Heerden on Saturday night could catapult him toward a shot at one of those names in 2021. Should that occur, it would simply be another step forward for a man who aims not only to hoist a title in the air but to cement himself as one of the greatest fighters to lace up the leather.
“Every fight I have, the goal is to make big statements and let the Welterweight division know that I’m here and that I’m nothing to be played with,” said Ennis. “I’m ready to take over this Welterweight division.”