This past Saturday night saw the return of big time boxing to Atlantic city in the form of a Showtime Championship boxing event at the historic Boardwalk Hall. The main event featured a battle between Philadelphia's Jaron Boots Ennis against Venezuela's Roiman Villa.
The significance of this welterweight match up was of great worth with the two divisional kingpins Terence Crawford and Eroll Spence Jr. facing off against each other later this month, meaning the winner of this scrimmage could be next in line.
Ennis has received raving reviews throughout a career that began in 2016.
The 26 year old has scarcely lost a round as a professional while knocking out 27 of 30 opponents in his undefeated career.
If winning is the most important act—and it certainly is—then looking good and putting on an entertaining performance is a close second. Ennis has had a nearly flawless career. His brand of boxing is a fan friendly one as to go along with devastating punching power and blazing hand speed the undefeated phenom has displayed all of the attributes one looks for in an exciting yet well polished fighter.
He can box, can switch hit as the conventional fighter is just as comfortable boxing out of a southpaw stance.
He can lead or counter, sets traps, has a high boxing IQ in the ring and is defensively responsible while meshing all of these skill sets with a flashy and athletic style.
What he hasn't had to show much of in his dominant yet young career are the intangibles required to climb to the top of the mountain and stay there. The same intangibles that have allowed Crawford and Spence's name to appear at the top of the pound for pound list for the better part of the last decade.
Saturday night was expected to ask some of these questions of Ennis as Roiman Villa entered the fight coming off back to back upsets over undefeated prospects and has proven to be as resilient and fast-steady fighter as anyone in the sport today.
The once beaten Villa has come out of nowhere to make a name for himself in the sport in less than a year.
After feasting on a steady diet of opponent types in South America Villa was brought in to face the then undefeated Janelson Figueroa last September, just up the boardwalk from Saturday night's fight in Atlantic City at Bally's Casino.
In Villa's first fight on American soil he knocked down and bullied his undefeated opponent over 8 rounds to win the first decision of his career and improve his record to 24-1 to go along with 23 knockouts.
Four months later he would again find himself in the B-side role as the opponent against the undefeated Rashidi Ellis.
Coming into the bout a 4 1/2 -1 underdog Villa's relentless pressure and determination ultimately pulled off the upset aided by a late surge and 2 knockdowns in the 12th and final round.
The Colombian by way of Venezuela had established himself as a major player in the Welterweight division.
He did so with both a different career trajectory to Jaron Ellis who has been promoted by powerhouse PBC and with a completely different fighting style as well relying on come forward tenaciousness, mental and physical pressure to break his opponents down and doing so behind a concrete chin.
Style contrasts are more often than not what end up making a fight both intriguing and enjoyable and this exchange certainly checked those boxes.
Villa as expected came out aggressive yet composed in his game plan. You don't fix what isn't broken but he was going to have to be a little more measured and careful with his signature aggressiveness in with such an explosive and hard punching opponent.
Villa plodded forward with herky/jerky head movement but early on it was a disciplined Ennis dictating the pace behind a stiff jab which he mixed up from top to bottom stabbing Villa to the midsection when he wasn't jabbing his opponent in the mouth.
It was Ennis and not Villa setting the fast tempo early on as he began introducing a hard right hand behind his busy jab which often found a home. Throughout the opening round Ennis mixed up a variety of jabs with some fast flurries of punches which he frequently put an exclamation point on driving his shots to the intended receiver with power.
Round 2 and 3 were more of the same as Ennis bloodied the nose of Villa.
Villa came out with more vigor in round 4 but he wasn't going to win a jabbing contest with Ennis who predominately stayed in a southpaw stance. Villa would land the occasional right hand jarring Ennis's head back or connect with a sweeping left hook but the problem was he kept missing with his follow up punches.
One and done.
On top of the inconvenience of not being able to sustain offence on his slippery opponent was that Ennis, when scored on, would immediately return fire and take the play and momentum from Villa. Early on it was all Ennis putting on another exciting performance for the fans in attendance.
Villa got himself to this position with resolution. He has proven to be a second half fighter who wears opponents down but one needs to inflict some damage to get those desired opportunities which can lead to results and Ennis wasn't giving Villa much as he avoided the incoming at almost every single turn.
Villa started focusing his attack on the body of Ennis and did some good work with two fisted attacks but Ennis would respond and was beginning to punish Villa for every attempt.
Round 6 was a turning point as a chopping right hand from Ennis buckled the legs of Villa and he was showing signs of slowing down. A clubbing right hand again hurt Villa with 40 seconds remaining in the round and Ennis followed up landing several eye-catching shots but Villa would let Ennis know he was still there with wild warning shots that would zoom just past the chin of the Philadelphia native.
Round 7 sees several more eruptions from volcano Ennis who is showing no signs of fatigue as Villa is beginning to look vulnerable and his face is busting up. Villa is trying to make it a dog fight and lands some hard body shots once again but continues whiffing on the head shots where Ennis is matching the occasional fire with conflagrations.
A huge left uppercut from Ennis badly hurts his opponent in round 7 as he is beginning to give the game Villa a beating.
Villa continues to swing away and battle on but his punches have lost some velocity and are more telegraphed which only leaves him open to more counters and further punishment. Ennis is making a statement.
As the 7th closes out it does so with Ennis pot shotting and beginning to land at will in the most one sided round of the night.
Rounds 8 and 9 are more of the same as the consistent bodywork from Ennis has helped to break his man down. Villa to his credit is not yet domesticated as he continues swinging for the fences and battling but he is sustaining a great deal of punishment as the ref and doctor take a look at him in between rounds.
In round 10 Ennis switches and comes out orthodox and the results are almost instantaneous. After batting with a southpaw for 9 rounds the new look from Ennis opens up more doors for his offense. The combination of exhaustion and sustained punishment spells target practice with Villa being the beneficiary.
The jab of Ennis is now landing at will, setting up his combinations. With each delivery of Ennis’ punches it has become clear to the naked eye that Villa is depleted by the combos and with a minute fifty left in the round and in the middle of a two way exchange that he's winning Ennis switches to southpaw and lands a monsterous cross, hook, cross combination which puts Villa on the canvas for the first time in his career.
Referee David Fields immediately waives the fight off with no count as Ennis makes a major statement ahead of Crawford – Spence July 29th.
Boxing is both a sport and a business. Ennis is at worst the third best Welterweight in the world but his name and resume do not carry the weight or the accomplishments of Crawford and Spence.
He could be forced to play the waiting game and raise his profile a little bit before the winner of the previously mentioned upcoming fight is willing to take such a risk.
Saturday night's fight was in the small room at Boardwalk Hall which was filled to capacity but only holds 2500 bodies.
In contrast Crawford and Spence routinely fight in front of 15 thousand plus fans.
Ennis's star is still rising and he is ready for a fight in the big room at Boardwalk Hall where all the legends like Tyson, Leonard, Holyfield, Gatti and Hopkins have fought.
Philadelphia is a short drive to Atlantic City and after this performance I would expect the demand to see Ennis in action to rise.
Ennis put on a show Saturday night and did so against an accomplished, determined and hungry hard hitting upset artist. His composure under constant attack from an opponent whose will has been unbreakable spoke volumes.
Ennis was up big on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage but rather than cruise to a decision victory he never relented and closed the show.
That's a tell-tale sign of a potentially great fighter as well as a potential star.
Ennis answered some questions this past weekend. He did so in stellar fashion. From a business perspective as well as an overall competition perspective there will still be more questions that need answering but from the simple eyeball test Jarod Ennis is ready for any Welterweight in the world and he's ready right now.