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The Business of Boots (Ennis That Is)

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The Business of Boots (Ennis That Is)

In one of his early fights, 2022 Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cotto was in one of the main supporting bouts on a high profile pay-per-view. Legendary boxing commentator Larry Merchant remarked that part of the reason for Cotto being featured was to showcase his talents for both the audience attending the event and the fans watching at home. “We are going to find out if Cotto is going to be the kind of fighter that people are going to take flights, get hotel rooms, and pay for tickets to see.”

For Jaron “Boots” Ennis, his time to transition from a highly touted interim world champion to a legitimate box office draw has arrived. On Saturday night in Atlantic City, live on Showtime, Ennis (30-0, 27 KOs) is being thrust into the main event against Romain Villa (27-1, 24 KOs), a surprise, yet serious contender in an event that from a commercial standpoint relies heavily on Ennis’s name. Originally set to take place in the Events Center inside the luxurious Borgata Hotel and Casino, the venue was changed to the Adrian Phillips Ballroom inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Logistics played a part in the change since both venues have a capacity of around 3,000 fans.

To Ennis, the change of venue was of little concern. “I’ve grown up around this sport since I was a baby. Nothing on that end of things (business) bothers me,” said Ennis, reiterating his history with the sport that he loves.

So far everything else that Ennis has faced throughout his seven-year professional career has been handled with that same calm demeanor that matches his persona both in and out of the ring. It’s a persona that at times has had fans wanting more from the 26-year-old boxer who has shied away from the fiery rhetoric that fans can easily gravitate towards.

It was this character trait that led some to criticize him after his most recent fight in January of this year on the undercard of Gervonta Davis’s fight with Hector Garcia. On that night Ennis defeated Karen Chukhadzhian to claim an interim world championship, winning every round against an opponent who was unwilling to engage in any meaningful exchanges. In going twelve rounds for the first time, Ennis gained the much-needed experience that all top fighters need at some point as their competition level rises, but more was expected of him in terms of “building his brand.”

What some perceived as a lackluster performance wasn’t lost on Ennis. “Going the distance in my last fight didn’t put any pressure on me leading up to his one. I can’t go looking for the knockout, that’s when you don’t get it,” stated Ennis. However as is the case with so many quiet, determined, and focused young fighters, the truth came out when he laced up his gloves for a workout just a week away from fight night.

After countless four-minute rounds on the heavy bag, pad work, and beating up a body shield, Ennis turned and simply said as he shook his head, “he’s going to have a long night.” It’s the type of simple statement that suggests Ennis is aware of the task at hand. He knows that looking spectacular in victory will help to generate crossover appeal that would create huge anticipation from the mainstream sports world as he moves forward toward possible mega showdowns with the winner of Crawford-Spence or bouts against former champions Yordenis Ugas and Keith Thurman who are tentatively slated to square off next month.

What was lost on many observers that night in January was the fact that while the Capital One Arena in Washington D.C. was sold out and packed with Tank Davis’s supporters, a sea of “JBE” (Jaron Boots Ennis) shirts flooded both the halls and the lower bowl of the arena. This signified that while Ennis has been on everyone’s radar as the next big thing in the welterweight division from a talent perspective, he might also be the heir-apparent for the division in terms of generating large live gates. When Ennis entered the arena that night, he received a loud welcome not only from those wearing his shirts but also from supporters of Davis.

Just how all of this translates into purchasing power is the ultimate question. With Philadelphia, Ennis’s hometown, being just a little over an hour’s drive away from Atlantic City, ticket sales suggest that the business of Boots is alive and well. “It’s been less than a month since tickets went on sale and (as of Thursday evening) there were less than 150 tickets left,” said Marshall Kauffman, head of King’s Promotions, who is working with PBC to put on this event. Kauffman anticipates a complete sellout while noting that more tickets should be released to accommodate walk-up sales on Saturday night.

Ultimately what this could mean for Team Ennis is that a local following has not only surfaced, but it’s the type of following that with continued success could lead to Ennis eventually gracing the ring inside the main arena downstairs from the Adrian Phillips Ballroom inside Boardwalk Hall, an arena that can hold upwards of 10,000 fans. It’s the arena that the late Hall-of-Famer Arturo Gatti was able to sell out on nine consecutive occasions.

Villa represents an intriguing opponent for Ennis due to his come-forward and press-the-action style. Not only does it give Ennis the opportunity to showcase his versatile skill set, it gives him the chance to solidify his name as an attraction and enhance his profile in ways that matter at the negotiating table. An impressive victory over Villa on Saturday ensures that the business of Boots will continue to move forward towards bigger and better things.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Skavynskyi and Bustillos Win on a MarvNation Card in Long Beach

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Skavynskyi and Bustillos Win on a MarvNation Card in Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Ca.-A cool autumn night saw welterweights and minimumweights share main events for a MarvNation fight card on Saturday.

Ukraine’s Eduard Skavynskyi (15-0, 7 KOs) experienced a tangled mess against the awkward Alejandro Frias (14-10-2) but won by decision after eight rounds in a welterweight contest at the indoor furnace called the Thunder Studios.

It was hot in there for the more than 600 people inside.

Skavynskyi probably never fought someone like Mexico’s Frias whose style was the opposite of the Ukrainian’s fundamentally sound one-two style. But round after round the rough edges became more familiar.

Neither fighter was ever damaged but all three judges saw Skavynskyi the winner by unanimous decision 79-73 on all three cards. The Ukrainian fighter trains in Ventura.

Bustillo Wins Rematch

Applerose2

In the female main event Las Vegas’ Yadira Bustillos (8-1) stepped into a rematch with Karen Lindenmuth (5-2) and immediately proved the lessons learned from their first encounter.

Bustillos connected solidly with an overhand right and staggered Lindenmuth but never came close to putting the pressure fighter down. Still, Bustillos kept turning the hard rushing Lindenmuth and snapping her head with overhand rights and check left hooks.

Lindenmuth usually overwhelms most opponents with a smothering attack that causes panic. But not against Bustillos who seemed quite comfortable all eight rounds in slipping blows and countering back.

After eight rounds all three judges scored the contest for Bustillos 78-74 and 80-72 twice. Body shots were especially effective for the Las Vegas fighter in the fifth round. Bustillos competes in the same division as IBF/WBO title-holder Yokasta Valle.

Other Bouts

In a middleweight clash, undefeated Victorville’s Andrew Buchanan (3-0-1) used effective combination punching to defeat Mexico’s Fredy Vargas (2-1-1) after six rounds. Two judges scored it 59-55 and a third 60-54 for Buchanan. No knockdowns were scored.

A super lightweight match saw Sergio Aldana win his pro debut by decision after four rounds versus Gerardo Fuentes (2-9-1).

Photos credit: Al Applerose

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Tedious Fights and a Controversial Draw Smudge the Matchroom Boxing Card in Orlando

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Matchroom Boxing was at the sprawling Royale Caribe Resort Hotel in Orlando, Florida tonight with a card that aired on DAZN. The main event was a ho-hum affair between super lightweights Richardson Hitchins and Jose Zepeda.

SoCal’s Zepeda has been in some wars in the past, notably his savage tussle with Ivan Baranchyk, but tonight he brought little to the table and was outclassed by the lanky Hitchins who won all 12 rounds on two of the cards and 11 rounds on the other.  There were no knockdowns, but Zepeda suffered a cut on his forehead in round seven that was deemed to be the product of an accidental head butt and another clash in round ten forced a respite in the action although Hitchins suffered no apparent damage.

It was the sort of fight where each round was pretty much a carbon of the round preceding it. Brooklyn’s Hitchins, who improved to 17-0 (7), was content to pepper Zepeda with his jab, and the 34-year-old SoCal southpaw, who brought a 37-3 record, was never able to penetrate his defense and land anything meaningful.

Hitchins signed with Floyd Mayweather Jr’s promotional outfit coming out of the amateur ranks and his style is reminiscent in ways of his former mentor. Like Mayweather, he loses very few rounds. In his precious engagement, he pitched a shutout over previously undefeated John Bauza.

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, Conor Benn returned to the ring after an absence of 17 months and won a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Rodolfo Orozco. It wasn’t a bad showing by Benn who showed decent boxing skills, but more was expected of him after his name had been bandied about so often in the media. Two of the judges had it 99-91 and the other 96-94.

Benn (22-0, 14 KOs) was a late addition to the card although one suspects that promoter Eddie Hearn purposely kept him under wraps until the week of the fight so as not to deflect the spotlight from the other matches on his show. Benn lost a lucrative date with Chris Eubank Jr when he was suspended by the BBBofC when evidence of a banned substance was found in his system and it’s understood that Hearn has designs on re-igniting the match-up with an eye on a date in December. For tonight’s fight, Benn carried a career-high 153 ½ pounds. Mexico’s Orozco, who was making his first appearance in a U.S. ring, declined to 32-4-3.

Other Bouts of Note

The welterweight title fight between WBA/WBC title-holder Jessica McCaskill (15-3-1) and WBO title-holder Sandy Ryan (6-1-1) ended in a draw and the ladies’ retain their respective titles. Ryan worked the body effectively and the general feeling was that she got a raw deal, a sentiment shared by the crowd which booed the decision. There was a switch of favorites in the betting with the late money seemingly all on the Englishwoman who at age 30 was the younger boxer by nine years.

The judges had it 96-94 Ryan, 96-95, and a vilified 97-93 for Chicago’s McCaskill.

In the opener of the main DAZN stream, Houston middleweight Austin “Ammo” Williams, 27, improved to 15-0 (10) with a 10-round unanimous decision over 39-year-old Toronto veteran Steve Rolls (22-3). All three judges had it 97-93. Rolls has been stopped only once, that by Gennady Golovkin.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing

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Zhilei Zhang KOs Joe Joyce; Calls Out Tyson Fury

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Joe Joyce activated his rematch clause after being stopped in the sixth frame by Zhilei Zhang in their first meeting. In hindsight, he may wish that he hadn’t. Tonight at London’s Wembley Stadium, Zhang stopped him again and far more conclusively than in their first encounter.

In the first meeting, Zhang, a southpaw, found a steady home for his stiff left jab. Targeting Joyce’s right eye, he eventually damaged the optic to where the ring doctor wouldn’t let Joyce continue. At the end, the fight was close on the cards and Joyce was confident that he would have pulled away if not for the issue with his eye.

In the rematch tonight, Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) closed the curtain with his right hand. A thunderous right hook on the heels of a straight left pitched Joyce to the canvas where he landed face first. He appeared to beat the count by a whisker, but was seriously dazed and referee Steve Gray properly waived it off. The official time was 3:07 of round three.

Zhang, who lived up to his nickname, “Big Bang,” was credited with landing 29 power punches compared with only six for Joyce (15-2) who came in 25 pounds heavier than in their first meeting while still looking properly conditioned. One would be inclined to say that age finally caught with the “Juggernaut” who turned 38 since their last encounter, but Zhang, 40, is actually the older man. In his post-fight interview in the ring, the New Jersey resident, a two-time Olympian for China, when asked who he wanted to fight next, turned to the audience and said, “Do you want to see me shut Tyson Fury up?”

He meant it as a rhetorical question.

Semi-Windup

Light heavyweight Anthony Yarde was matched soft against late sub Jorge Silva, a 40-year-old Portuguese journeyman, and barely broke a sweat while scoring a second-round stoppage. Yarde backed Silva against a corner post and put him on the deck with a short right hand. Silva’s body language indicated that he had no interest in continuing and the referee accommodated him. The official time was 2:07 of round two.

A 30-year-old Londoner, Yarde (24-3, 23 KOs) was making his first start since being stopped in eight rounds by Artur Beterbiev in a bout that Yarde was winning on two of the scorecards. Silva, a late replacement for 19-3-1 Ricky Summers, falls to 22-9.

Also

Former leading super middleweight contender Zach Parker (23-1, 17 KOs) returned to the ring in a “shake-off-the-rust” fight against 40-year-old Frenchman Khalid Graidia and performed as expected. Graidia’s corner pulled him out after seven one-sided rounds.

In his previous fight, Parker was matched against John Ryder who he was favored to beat. The carrot for the winner was a lucrative date with Canelo Alvarez. Unfortunately for Parker, he suffered a broken hand and was unable to continue after four frames. Tonight, he carried 174 pounds, a hint that he plans to compete as a light heavyweight going forward. Indeed, he has expressed an interest in fighting Anthony Yarde. Graidia declined to 10-13-4.

The Zhang-Joyce and Yarde-Silva fights were live-streamed in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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