Jaron Ennis, 23, has sights set on being an all-time great

·Combat columnist
·4 min read

Chris van Heerden isn’t the guy who is going to expose whatever weaknesses there are in Jaron Ennis’ arsenal. So far, the 23-year-old from Philadelphia has been nothing short of brilliant in racking up a 26-0 record with 24 knockouts.

Everything about him screams star.

But stars in the making don’t always make it, and that’s where the 33-year-old van Heerden comes in. He’s one of those veterans that prospects like Ennis need to prove they can handle. He’s smart, tough and has seen just about everything there is to see inside of a ring.

So while he may not expose all of Ennis’ weaknesses, he has the ability to show us how good Ennis may become.

Ennis and van Heerden meet in the co-main event of a card Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Showtime) at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, in a bout that carries particular importance for Ennis.

“I feel like I’m ready to take that step and get to the next level,” Ennis told Yahoo Sports.

Against van Heerden, he’s not only facing a veteran, he’s stepping in against a southpaw. Van Heerden has proven durable and in 2015, he went into the eighth round against now-unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.

Ennis is known as a puncher, but he insists he hasn’t shown anything yet. The best in that regard, he says, is yet to come.

“To be completely honest with you, I haven’t really turned any shots over yet,” he said. “When I go back and look at it, I’m like, ‘I didn’t even turn my punch over or twist my hips right.’ I feel like I haven’t thrown any real hard power shots yet. I feel like I’m growing into my man body now and I’m getting stronger and stronger, so I feel you’re going to see in these next couple of fights, that power really start to show itself.”

Ennis is nothing if not confident. Though he fights in one of boxing’s best divisions, which has two top-five fighters in Spence and Terence Crawford, he isn’t shy about expressing his belief that he’ll soon join them in that kind of rarefied air.

He’s dreaming big, like all-time great big. He’s started as a pro at welterweight and is still fighting in the class today, but believes he can eventually go up to compete one day at light heavyweight.

Jaron Ennis, left, throws a left at Bakhtiyar Eyubov during the first round of their boxing bout in Atlantic City, N.J., Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia's Jaron Ennis (L) has set some lofty goals for his boxing career. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It’s a massive jump and while he has decent height at 5-10 for a welterweight, it would be a different story when he is a super middleweight or light heavyweight.

None of that concerns him, though. It could be the precociousness of youth speaking, but Ennis’ goals are to kind of follow in the path of legends like Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao and collect title belts in multiple weight classes.

“I want to be a multi-division unified world champion in about four or five, maybe six, weight classes,” Ennis said. “I want to go down as an all-time great. When I’m done, I want to be talked about like the Muhammad Alis, the Mike Tysons, the Roy Jones’, the Floyd Mayweathers, the rest of them guys. Sweet Pea [Pernell Whitaker]. I feel like I have that in me, but it’s up to me to bring that out.”

Winning multiple world titles isn’t nearly as different as becoming an iconic figure like Ali or Tyson who transcends boxing and sports, but that’s where Ennis has his sights set.

It’s a great goal to have, but he’s a long way away from that at this point. At 23, Ali had already defeated Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion. Tyson was the undisputed champion with eight successful title defenses and weeks away from a ninth when he turned 23.

So it’s a long road for Ennis, but this is a talented fighter who believes in himself and is willing to do the dirty work it takes away from the bright lights to get there.

“Even in the amateurs, I was a guy who got better in the second half of fights,” Ennis said. “I get stronger as I go on and as I mature, that’s only going to be more and more. I want to make a statement and then set myself up to face everyone who is anyone in this division [in 2021].”

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