The Welterweight Division: Ennis Joins The Fraternity

Amanda Westcott/Showtime

There was that Golden Era of boxing in the 1980’s, middleweights and welterweights. The Hall of Famers “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, and Roberto Duran.

Boxing then, not like now, was mainstream and got the back page headlines. I can say as a rookie reporter, then covering boxing, that was a Golden Era that will never be replicated. I have provided first hand accounts here about the epic championship fights held at an outdoor arena on the grounds at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Now the glamor has been maintained in Las Vegas, though at an indoor arena inside the MGM Grand Hotel on the strip or the nearby T-Mobile Arena. Names have changed and the mega fight continues to be streamed or televised on pay-pay-view.

Boxing will always maintain a form of regularity though always with that bit of controversy, an illustrious sport and aptly known as “The Sport of Kings.” We, the old school journalists that cover the sport, will tell you the sport is healthy.

Yes, there is no longer a Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, or Duran. They were a special breed of fighter and fans gravitated to their styles and personalities. The big time promoters at the time, Hall of Famers Bob Arum and Don King, will always say that was the Golden Era for boxing, competition and headlines were mainstream.

So here we are, 2023. Boxing lives and thrives with the Showtime and ESPN cable networks as regular platforms. And of course, the advent of streaming networks, (DAZN) another paid platform along with the mega fights televised on pay-per-view, perhaps at a costly price for the consumer, saturated because every promoter wants a piece of the action that leads to revenue.

Why do I provide a brief history of how it was and where we are now?

I watched Jaron “Boots” Ennis up close at ringside Saturday evening at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. His time has arrived after finally disposing of a resilient Roman Villa in the 10th round. A Showtime Championship Boxing audience and a sold out crowd saw what I witnessed.

Ennis, the IBF interim Welterweight champion has arrived. Not saying he was never here, but this was the opportunity for a next step at getting a title opportunity against either Errol Spence Jr. or Terence Crawford, the two battle for supremacy July 29th in Las Vegas for the undisputed titles and set to be a blockbuster Showtime Boxing pay-per-view event.

And it was an awesome display of power, something I saw first hand during that era mentioned. Ennis, who dominated the CompuBox stats, including a 164 to 57 edge in power shots, statistics that were unheard of when Hagler and Hearns met in April, 1985 at Caesars Palace.

My mentor, the late Bert Sugar (author and historian) and others have documented the first three rounds of that fight as the greatest in boxing history. Hagler and Hearns was persistent action, back-and-forth, vicious exchanges, and drama.

Ennis and Villa, they received the attention and revived that drama.

The punches felt at ringside and woke up fellow fans of Ennis who traveled an hour from Philadelphia, and I say brought life to an otherwise uneventful undercard.

With every punch they cheered. They waited for the inevitable outcome and sensed that Ennis would finish the job, though Villa was resilient and took the punches up close, from all angles. It was a Jaron Ennis type of fight, one that inched him closer to Spence or Crawford.

Moments there were flashbacks of Hagler and Hearns, but finally was the arrival of a young and exciting Jaron Ennis. Perhaps, though, there were moments that also posed questions as there were with Hagler, Herans. Leonard and Duran, but we know now where they stand in boxing history.

Villa took the punches, but would not go down and Ennis was left to answer, is he ready for Spence or Crawford? Or should Ennis go back to the gym and take a different and brief turn with Spence or Crawford eventually looking at bigger fights, both with aspirations to fight at 154, another of those highly touted divisions.

There has been talk of Ennis taking on former champions Keith Thurman or Yordenis Ugas, other options for Showtime and the PBC to consider. Reality though, Spence and Crawford have an agenda of their own and the name of Jaron Ennis is not a priority.

But Ennis made his statement Saturday evening on the Boardwalk. This was the fight, a win that got him a step closer to his reality and destiny of no longer being the also- run Number 1 contender. He wants that championship.

The PBC and Showtime leave fans with no other alternative. Ennis is a draw, and a fighter with his punching ability is good enough for me to say it is his time.

I want the winner of Errol Spence and Terence Crawford,” said Ennis. “Let’s make it happen. I’ll take on Eimantas Stanionis (another top welterweight) in a heartbeat. I want to get into the ring one more time before the end of the year to make it three fights. Stanionis, Keith Thurman, Yordenis Ugas all the top guys out there. Let’s make these fights happen.”

Oh, the mega fight for Ennis will happen. He has finally arrived and boxing has another young superstar, yet to be answered if this is another coming of Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, and Duran.

Rich Mancuso: Twitter @Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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