Notebook: Ennis hopes to channel inner Tyson against Chukhadzhian
'Bam' Rodriguez set for another title shot; Rocha-Young to headline on DAZN; results from strawweight title doubleheader; Quick hits; Show and tell
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For the past few years Jaron Ennis has been widely viewed as a future champion and pound-for-pound list candidate, and he has done nothing to remotely change that view as he has scored one impressive victory after another.
As he has stepped up his competition — and it has been very difficult for his team to get quality opponents to face him — he has in his last three fights scored a highlight-reel knockout of former junior welterweight titlist Sergey Lipinets, smashed former title challenger Thomas Dulorme in one round and taken out unbeaten former Canadian Olympian Custio Clayton in two rounds.
About the only negative one could find with Ennis — and it’s not his fault — is the lack of activity with just one fight in 2022, the win over Clayton.
But Ennis is poised for a big 2023 that he will kick off when he meets heavy underdog Karen Chukhadzhian for the vacant interim IBF welterweight title in the co-feature of the Gervonta Davis-Hector Luis Garcia card on Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Showtime PPV, PPV.com, $74.99), at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. The pay-per-view is also available on all major cable, telco and satellite providers in the United States and Canada.
The Ennis-Chukhadzhian winner will also become the IBF mandatory challenger for three-belt titlist Errol Spence Jr. That is the level of fight Ennis yearns for.
“This win can put me right in line for Errol Spence Jr. This is a perfect time to make a big statement and I can’t wait,” Ennis said this week. “I’m looking to make a statement to the whole world. I’m just focused on putting on a show, getting an explosive knockout and then seeing what’s next.”
Ennis (29-0, 27 KOs), 25, of Philadelphia, said he has been watching Mike Tyson fights to get himself psyched up for a knockout.
“I’m on my ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. I don’t go in there looking for the knockout, but if I see that opening, I’m definitely taking it,” Ennis said. “I’m not afraid to get him out early. Everyone knows I’m in and out like a robbery.
“I’m putting my own twist on Tyson. I picked up a few things from watching Tyson, so this is gonna be a fun night. I’m going to be explosive with it. My message to the world is just continue to watch me grow and progress and make sure you don’t miss this knockout on Saturday night.”
Chukhadzhian (21-1, 11 KOs), 26, of Ukraine, who has not lost since a three-round split decision in his second fight in 2015, will be fighting in the United States for the first time and facing his first notable opponent. But he is confident despite the long odds.
“This is my chance to prove myself to the U.S. public. Everyone knows the biggest fights are here in the U.S. and I plan to be back again,” he said. “I’ve wanted an opportunity like this and I’m very motivated finally being here in the U.S. I’m coming to win for everybody rooting me on in Ukraine.
“I can’t get caught up with worrying too much about Ennis and what he can do. I have great abilities and I trained hard with only one goal in mind. That’s winning.”
Ennis would rather be facing a more well-known opponent but he is happy to fight for an interim title even because winning will guarantee him a shot at a major belt.
“I feel like this is another step toward greatness and getting those belts,” Ennis said. “It’s not hard to be the next guy up. I just have to stay focused and do what I do. I know my time is coming real soon. It’s that simple.
“I know Errol Spence Jr. and (WBO titlist) Terence Crawford are holding up the division right now, but whatever way I can get my hands on the belts, I’ll be ready. I just want to fight. I’m young, hungry and I’m going to keep shining and demolishing these guys they put in front of me.
“I know Spence says he’s the ‘big fish,’ but we like to go fishing. If I have to sit on the side and ride a jet ski for a while, that’s OK for now. You know what happens when they bring a fish to land right? They squirm.”
Davis-Garcia PPV lineup
(9 p.m. ET on Showtime PPV, PPV.com and all major cable, telco and satellite providers in the U.S. and Canada)
Lightweights: Gervonta Davis (27-0, 25 KOs) vs. Hector Garcia (16-0, 10 KOs), 12 rounds, for Davis’ WBA “regular” title
Welterweights: Jaron “Boots” Ennis (29-0, 27 KOs) vs. Karen Chukhadzhian (21-1, 11 KOs), 12 rounds, for vacant IBF interim title
Welterweights: Rashidi Ellis (24-0, 15 KOs) vs. Roiman Villa (25-1, 24 KOs), 12 rounds, IBF eliminator
Super middleweights: Demetrius Andrade (31-0, 19 KOs) vs. Demond Nicholson (26-4-1, 22 KOs), 10 rounds
Rodriguez title shot set
Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez and Cristian Gonzalez will fight for the vacant WBO flyweight title on April 8 (DAZN) in Rodriguez’s hometown of San Antonio, a source involved in the event told Fight Freaks Untie.
The fight, which will headline a Matchroom Boxing card, comes as no surprise because when Rodriguez recently vacated the WBC junior bantamweight title he announced he would move down to flyweight. Soon thereafter, the WBO ordered the bout at its recent annual convention.
Rodriguez (17-0, 11 KOs) had a breakout 2022 when, in February, he moved up two divisions to challenge former junior bantamweight titlist Carlos Cuadras for the vacant WBC belt when Srisaket Sor Rungvisai was forced to withdraw due to illness. Rodriguez took the fight on six days’ notice, dropped Cuadras and handily outpointed him to, at age 22, become boxing’s youngest active world titleholder. In June, Rodriguez thrilled a San Antonio hometown crowd in his first defense by knocking out former two-time champion Sor Rungvisai in the eighth round of and then outpointed Israel Gonzalez in September before vacating to move down.
Gonzalez (15-1, 5 KOs), 23, of Mexico, has won nine fights in a row but will be taking a major step up in opposition.
Rodriguez and Gonzalez will vie for the 112-pound title vacated by Japan’s undefeated Junto Nakatani, who moved up in weight.
Rocha-Young tops DAZN card
Welterweight Alexis Rocha (21-1, 13 KOs), 25, of Santa Ana, California, will face Anthony “Juice” Young (24-2, 8 KOs), 34, of Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the main event on DAZN on Jan. 28 (8 p.m. ET), Golden Boy Promotions announced, confirming Fight Freaks Unites’ previous report.
The card will kick off Golden Boy’s 2023 schedule and will be the first boxing show at the new 6,000-seat YouTube Theater, which is part of the SoFi Stadium complex in Inglewood, California.
Initially, junior welterweight star Ryan Garcia was supposed to face Mercito Gesta in the main event of as a warm-up for a planned April 15 showdown with Gervonta Davis, but when Garcia opted to forego the bout and wait for the big fight, Golden Boy still wanted to put on a show with so many fighters to keep active. It was able to work things out with DAZN for the new main event while finding a venue.
“Jan. 28th marks my first fight of 2023 and a fight that will set the stage for my best year yet,” Rocha said. “I have patiently worked to reach the point of being the main event on a major card and now I’m here. 2022 provided its challenges, as I had to overcome a hand injury, but it made me stronger. I can’t wait to start the year with a knockout victory.”
Young accepted the fight earlier this week.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity to perform on this platform,” Young said.
In the co-feature, blue-chip lightweight prospect Floyd Schofield (12-0, 10 KOs), 20, of Austin, Texas, will face Alberto Mercado (17-4-1, 4 KOs), 34, of Puerto Rico, in a 10-rounder.
Also on the main card:
Puerto Ricans Oscar Collazo (5-0, 3 KOs), 25, and former WBO strawweight titlist Wilfredo “Bimbito” Mendez (18-2, 6 KOs), 26, will square off in a WBO title eliminator.
Super middleweight Bektemir “Bully” Melikuziev (10-1, 8 KOs), 26, an Uzbekistan native based in Indio, California, will face an opponent to be determined in a 10-rounder.
BetUS Boxing Show
If you missed the BetUS Boxing Show live at 1 p.m. ET on Friday on YouTube, please check out the replay (and also subscribe to the YouTube channel). We previewed and picked three of the fights on the Showtime PPV card on Saturday night: the Gervonta Davis-Hector Luis Garcia main event as well as the Jaron “Boots” Ennis-Karen Chukhadzhian co-feature and Rashidi Ellis-Roiman Villa. We also took viewer questions and comments! Check out the show here:
Jerusalem wins strawweight title
The Philippines’ Melvin Jerusalem knocked out Japanese southpaw Masataki Taniguchi in the second round to take his WBO strawweight title on Friday at EDION Arena in Osaka, Japan.
Jerusalem (20-2, 12 KOs), 28, who failed in a 2017 shot at the WBC belt, knocked out Taniguchi with a right hand to the chin. He went down to his rear end but when he got up and began wobbling, referee Roberto Ramirez waved it off at 1 minute, 4 seconds. Taniguchi (16-4, 11 KOs), 28, who won the first round on all three scorecards, was making his second title defense.
Also on the card, Daniel Valladares (26-3-1, 15 KOs), 28, of Mexico, retained the IBF strawweight title for the first time against Ginjiro Shigeoka (8-0, 6 KOs), 23, a Japanese southpaw, when the fight ended in a no decision at 2 minutes, 48 seconds of the third round due to a bad accidental head butt that left Shigeoka unable to continue.
Weights from Washington, D.C., for Saturday night’s card at Capital One Arena (9 p.m., Showtime PPV, PPV.com): Gervonta Davis 134 pounds, Hector Garcia 134 (for Davis’ WBA “regular” lightweight title); Jaron “Boots” Ennis 145.6, Karen Chukhadzhian 146.2 (for vacant IBF interim welterweight title); Rashidi Ellis 146.2, Roiman Villa 145.8 (IBF welterweight eliminator); Demetrius Andrade 167, Demond Nicholson 167.3; Vito Mielnicki Jr. 153.2, Omar Rosales 152.8 pounds; Brandun Lee 141.4, Diego Luque 141.2; Travon Marshall 149.8, Shawn West 151.2; Keyshawn Williams 146.2, Gustavo Vittori 145.6; Lamont Peterson 141.6, Michael Ogundo 140.2; Kyrone Davis 163.8, Cristian Rios 164.4; Jalil Hackett 156.2, Joel Guevara 155.8; Mia Ellis 128.2, Karen Dulin 129.8.
Former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (36-6-1, 20 KOs), 40, has tested positive for Covid-19, forcing his IBF title elimination bout against Michael Eifert (11-1, 4 KOs), 24, of Germany, to be postponed, promoters Lou DiBella and Yvon Michel announced Friday. The bout was scheduled to take place on Feb. 9 at Place Bell in Pascal’s hometown of Laval, Quebec, just outside of Montreal. According to announcement, Pascal’s “symptoms are too severe for him to continue training.”
The WBC announced it has ordered Croatia’s Alen Babic (11-0, 10 KOs) and Poland’s Lukasz Rozanski (14-0, 13 KOs) to fight for the vacant bridgerweight title with the winner obligated to make two mandatory defenses. If Babic-Rozanski goes to a purse bid the split is 50-50. Oscar Rivas, the first titleholder in the newly created 224-pound division, was recently stripped because he will be sidelined indefinitely due to a detached retina. The WBC also ordered a final eliminator between former cruiserweight titlist Ryad Merhy (31-1, 26 KOs), of Belgium, and South Africa’s Kevin Lerena (28-2, 14 KOs). That fight is also a 50-50 split if it goes to a purse bid. The winner will get the first mandatory shot at the Babic-Rozanski winner with the spit for that bout at a purse bid 60-40 in favor of the titleholder. If agreements are not reached for the vacant title fight or the eliminator, the WBC will hold purse bids on Jan. 31.
The IBF has notified its registered promoters that it has scheduled a purse bid for the fight between junior bantamweight titlist Fernando Martinez (15-0, 8 KOs), 31, of Argentina, and mandatory challenger Jade Bornea (18-0, 12 KOs), 27, of the Philippines. After failing to make a deal by the deadline, the purse bid is scheduled for Jan. 17 at the IBF offices in Springfield, New Jersey, and via video conference at 12 p.m. ET, although the sides are permitted to make a deal up to 15 minutes before the bid are unsealed. Promoters wishing to participate must pay a $5,000 nonrefundable participation fee and 10 percent of their bid, which is refundable if they don’t win. The winning bidder must submit another 10 percent within five days.
Heavyweight Agit Kabayel (22-0, 14 KOs), 30, has the flu and is unable to train, forcing his fight against Agron Smakici (19-1, 17 KOs), 32, a southpaw from Croatia, for the vacant European heavyweight title to be postponed until March 4, SES Boxing, Kabayel’s promoter, announced. The fight will still take place in Kabayel’s hometown of Bochum, Germany. It was initially scheduled for Jan. 28
Show and tell
I’m looking forward to being ringside to cover the Gervonta Davis-Hector Luis Garcia card on Saturday night at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. I also covered the last boxing event to take place there nearly 18 years ago, when it was called the MCI Center. That card, also put on by Showtime (like Davis-Garcia), took place on June 11, 2005 and was headlined by what turned out to be heavyweight legend Mike Tyson’s final fight. Tyson suffered a sixth-round knockout against journeyman Kevin McBride and announced his retirement at the post-fight news conference. He never returned other than for two exhibition bouts in all the years since. Here is a very scarce thin cardboard site poster from Tyson-McBride in my collection.
Ennis photo: Amanda Westcott/Showtime; Rodriguez photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing; Davis-Garcia photo: Ryan Hafey/PBC
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Ennius is a star