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Story & File Photos by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. / Instagram: @darrylcobb


IBF welterweight champion Jaron “Boots” Ennis makes his Philadelphia homecoming on July 13 at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly. This celebrated return to a local boxing ring comes on the occasion of Jaron’s first defense of his 147-pound world title.

While Errol Spence moved forward with a mega-match with Terrence Crawford last year, Ennis, his mandatory challenger, was named “interim” champion. After Crawford demolished Spence and opted not to face the undefeated and highly touted next-in-line Philadelphian, the IBF elevated Ennis to full IBF champion. These politics robbed Ennis of the chance to win his first world title inside the ring. However, most of the boxing world agrees that he is THE fighter to watch and potentially one of the very best in the game today. We can only speculate exactly how accomplished he will become when he reaches his prime and gets the opportunity to face the very best opponents in his division.

The first step in this exciting journey begins on July 13 when Ennis faces Cody Crowley, an undefeated (22-0, 9 KOs) Canadian southpaw who fights out of Las Vegas. Actually, truly the first step in Ennis’ march toward his potential came when he recently signed a promotional contract with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing.

After his lengthy contract with Showtime petered out with the network’s complete secession from boxing, Ennis became a promotional free agent. Of all the players in the sport, Ennis selected Matchroom. It was a wise choice and a perfect match. Eddie Hearn and Matchroom will finally give Ennis the attention and platform he deserves.

This promotion, “The Homecoming,” is bigger than anything the budding superstar has previously seen – and bigger than any other promoter would have offered. Staging the fight at South Philly's Wells Fargo Center is a risk. Philadelphia has not filled an arena of this size (for boxing) in quite a while. Recent Philly champions Danny Garcia, Tevin Farmer, Julian Williams, Stephen Fulton, Steve Cunningham, and even Bernard Hopkins did not so much as try. But Matchroom is thinking long-term. Hearn belives Ennis is the future of boxing, and fighting at home was important to Ennis. So Hearn delivered. Ennis vs. Crowley is the biggest boxing event Philly has seen in years. Now it is up to the fans to make the fight a commercial success. If this happens, perhaps future Jaron Ennis fights will occur at home.

For local boxing fans, the name “Ennis” is a familiar one. Jaron is the third Ennis to lace on the gloves and chase fame and fortune in a boxing ring. Actually, he is the fourth, if you count his father Derek “Bozy” Ennis who trains his youngest son.

Beginning in 1977, Bozy Ennis was a professional middleweight who fought six times through 1984. His bouts were all four-round and six-round preliminary fights. His career ended unspectacularly in 1984, with a record of 4-2, 3 KOs, after the death of his trainer Al Styles. However, Bozy’s true calling surfaced later when he shifted his efforts from boxer to trainer.

The proprietor of his own gym, Bozy’s Dungeon, the senior Ennis began working with local fighters. He guided solid locals including Anthony Thompson, Olivia Fonseca, Coy Evans, Manny Folley, Ray Robinson, Branden Pizarro, Milton Santiago Jr., and Christian Carto. However, before Jaron, Bozy’s most promising clients were his two older sons, Derek “Pooh” Ennis, and “The Quiet Storm,” Farah Ennis.

Pooh Ennis was a junior middleweight with all the tools to make it in boxing. He was a smart fighter with excellent boxing skills and a very good jab. However, Pooh was a partier and his lifestyle hurt his progress. Still, the eldest Ennis brother won Pennsylvania junior middleweight title, and the USBA junior middleweight title during his career. He defeated Gabriel Rosato (W12), Eromosele Albert (W12), and Troy Browning (W10) in regional title bouts and appeared to be on the brink of title contention. However, his title shot never materialized.

Eight months after defeating Rosado in the biggest bout of his career – a 12-round defense of his USBA belt before a packed South Philly Arena in 2010 – Ennis was shocked by Giorbis Barthelemy in Atlantic City, who stopped him in two rounds. After this loss, Ennis never really rebounded. He split his final four fights (2-2) and never agian made a serious run at the top. His final fight came in 2014 when he lost a 10-round decision to Caleb Truax in Chicago.

As good as Pooh Ennis was, and he was good, he never made it to a world title fight, as so many fans thought he might. He retired after 30 bouts with a record of 24-5-1, 13 KOs. His efforts earned him a spot in the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame in 2020, the same year his father was inducted as a trainer.

Farah Ennis, three years younger than Pooh, fought two weight classes above his older brother, at super middleweight. Bigger, stronger, and harder punching than Pooh, Farah also had the tools to go all the way. He cruised through his first 17 fights and collected the NABF 168-pound title with a seventh-round TKO of Victor Lares in Atlantic City in 2010. This victory, win number 17, made him 17-0, with 11 KOs, and earned him a title belt that made both Ennis brothers regional champions simultaneously. This was exactly how Philly fans expected the careers of the Ennis brothers to go – a bilateral race to world title honors.

However, like his brother, Farah never made it to a world title fight. Farah lost his next bout, a close decision against Alexander Johnson. Undeterred, he then strung together four consecutive wins before losing by decision to future world champion Badou Jack (L10). In the fight, Ennis looked off and only fought once more. Two years later he won a six-round decision over Michael Gbenga, but never fought again. He retired with a solid 22-2, 12 KOs, record. Farah has made it to the PABHOF ballot but has not yet been elected. It seems that in time, he will join his father and older brother in the local Hall.

Despite the excellent resumes of both Pooh Ennis and Farah Ennis, and the legendary career Bozy has had as a trainer, the family destiny and level of their full potential are in Boots Ennis’ hands.

Boots has already captured a world title, making him the most accomplished of the family. But the lofty expectations that have surrounded Boots since his days as an amateur seem to signal that the Ennis family could even rival the Frazier family as Philly’s most distinguished clan. At the very least, Boots has already achieved the family’s dream of a world championship. This accomplishment, which was the dream of all four Ennis men, is something all they all now share as a family.

At age 26, with his biggest matches ahead of Boots, the future of both his and the Ennis family legacies looks bright. His next step is to turn back the challenge of Cody Crowley before a hometown Philadelphia crowd carrying perhaps the highest expectations for any local fighter ever in the city’s boxing history. The pressure is on Boots to win in impressive fashion. Along the way, Boots has been compared to Meldrick Taylor and Roy Jones, and is already being called Philly’s current best. Only time will tell how far he goes and how big the Ennis family legacy will grow.




John DiSanto - South Philly - May 10, 2024