By Jason Pribila: In recent weeks the city of Philadelphia came close to landing coveted free agents in the NBA and MLB. They would eventually lose out on both LeBron James and Manny Machado who both chose to take their talents to Los Angeles. While the city turned out to not be a destination for free agents, their proud boxing tradition remains strong and was on display during the main event of the ShoBox that aired live from Winnavegas Casino Resort in Sloan, Iowa.
Jaron Ennis (21-0, 19 KO) wanted to make a statement in his first televised main event. The 21-year-old welterweight prospect did exactly that in less than ten minutes of work.
From the onset, the speed difference between Ennis and Armando Alvarez (18-1, 12 KO) was evident. Ennis fought out of the southpaw stance and found a home for a left hook to the body early and often.
Ennis hurt Alvarez to the body with a minute to go in round two. Sensing the end was near, Ennis chose to play up to the crowd as the bell sounded.
Ennis would score his first knockdown 20 seconds into the third frame. A right to the head set up a left hook to the body that sent Alvarez to a place he would soon become familiar with.
A second knockdown was scored courtesy of another left to the body at the midpoint of the round. Alvarez rose momentarily after taking knee. Ennis immediately jumped on Alvarez and landed a right uppercut – left hook to score the third knockdown of the round.
A bloody Alvarez showed tremendous heart by rising; however, Ennis’ pressure forced him to take a knee leaving referee Adam Pollack no choice but to waive off the fight at 2:59.
While this was Ennis’ first nationally televised main event, his name is very familiar to Philadelphia fight fans. Jaron is the third of three brothers to punch for pay. Derek “Pooh” Ennis (24-5-1) fought at middleweight, while Farah (22-2) campaigned at super middleweight.
Jaron’s big brothers led him down his career path, but his combination of speed and power have him on a trajectory to not only exceed their success, but to place his name with the elite of the city’s rich boxing history.
In other bouts:
The televised portion of the show kicked off with an entertaining scrap between Kenneth Sims Jr. (12-1-1, 4 KO) and Montana Love (11-0-1, 5 KO) contested at junior welterweight.
There must be something in the water in Ohio. Love, whose nickname is “Too Pretty”, entered the ring along with a member of his entourage who was holding a mirror. Fortunately, no one brushed his hair.
Sims was much more business-like when he entered the ring for the first time a year after suffering his first lose and recovering from elbow surgery. A second straight loss would be a huge setback.
Prior to the fight each fighter claimed the other would run out of gas first. With a combined 9 knockouts in their previous 24 combined fights, it was a fight that seemed destined to be a battle of endurance. Instead, both fighters come out guns blazing in an evenly contested and exciting opening frame.
Sims controlled the distance during most of the opening two frames. He backed Love to the ropes, and was able to throw combinations. Love was able to avoid major damage, but with his back square, he was unable to counter with any power.
Love seemed to even the score thru four by landing the crisper punches in the center of the ring. The pace slowed and became more tactical, which favored Love’s crisper punches.
Love had his best moment in the fight with under a minute left in the fifth round. He was now the fighter coming forward, and a hard right-left combination sent Sims’ mouthpiece flying. Love, sensing his opponent was fading, let him hear about it as the round came to an end.
Love continued the momentum early in the sixth round, but Sims finished the round strong.
With the fight seemingly on the table, the final round began much like the first round. Both fighters traded punches through most of the round, but the fight ended with Sims being the aggressor. Sims forced Love to the ropes, and a final flurry seemed to be enough to earn him a narrow decision victory.
When scores were read, two judges were split on the victor as scores of 77-75 were read for each. The final score of 76-76 confirmed that the action was too close to declare a winner.
The Showtime announcers agreed that the fan friendly fight deserved an encore. This was Sims first fight with a personal trainer, and he seemed to have more left at the end of the fight. Love, who has been active by fighting four times thus far in 2018, will no doubt look himself in the mirror and question what he could have done differently.
Undefeated Thomas Mattice overcame a knockdown in the second round to escape with a controversial eight-round split decision victory over Armenian Zhora Hamazaryan. Two judges scored the fight 76-75 in favor of Mattice with the third judge scoring it 77-74 in favor of Hamazaryan.
Mattice (13-0, 10 KOs) said he thought he did enough to win the fight, even though he was floored by a devastating right hook from Hamazaryan at 2:30 in the second round.
Hamazaryan’s pressure enabled him to work his way inside and render Mattice’s normally powerful jab mostly ineffective, as he landed just 19 percent of his jabs. Besides scoring the fight’s only knockdown in round two, Hamazaryan controlled the seventh round and applied more pressure than Mattice in the final three rounds.
Quick Post Fight Quotes
"I feel so great after this fight,” Ennis said. “I came out and did what we planned on, which was to just get out there and break him down. I wasn’t nervous and I had fun in the ring, I’ve been here before and I’m aware of everything. I’ve been in the ring my entire life and this is always what I’ve been doing.”
“Alvarez was just another opponent,” said Ennis, who out-landed Alvarez 23-3 in power punches in the final round. “He’s a great fighter but it feels like I’ve been here before. I’ve been fighting forever so it was nothing new. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid.”
"He was faster than I e:xpected and I didn’t execute my game plan,” Alvarez said. “I was supposed to pressure and I didn’t. He hit me with a surprising shot. He had enough power that I had to respect him. He was just the better man tonight.”
“Tonight wasn’t my best performance,” Mattice said. “I felt like I Iost the few early rounds. [Hamazaryan] landed some clean shots and he’s a crazy competitor; he wasn’t giving me anything. I think the decision was fair. I out-jabbed him and it may have looked like he was hitting me more but he wasn’t really touching me. The crowd was going crazy over him tapping my gloves. I outpointed him overall.”
“I am extremely upset,” said Hamazaryan, who was fighting for the second time in the U.S. “I deserve a lot more being here in the United States. I worked many years for this opportunity, and for the judges to take it from me is just terrible. I know I won. I’m always a champion. I have already talked to my team and we are going to protest this fight to the right outcome and we will give him a rematch.
He added: “I knocked him down, hurt him several more times and dominated the fight. And how could they just take this from me.”
“I worked well in the beginning even though I was a little rusty,” said Sims, 24, who had not fought in more than a year because of right elbow surgery. “I slacked off in the middle rounds, and picked it up in the last three. I thought I won the fight, but I can’t complain. I haven’t fought in a year and I feel like I am a stronger and a better fighter than I was then.”
“Today wasn’t my best day and I just wasn’t able to get in to a groove,” said Love, who fought against Sims when the two were teenagers in the amateurs. “I definitely didn’t fight my best. I felt good in the third and fourth rounds.
“We definitely want a rematc. Today was an off day but we hundred percent want a rematch and want to fight again, wherever and whenever.”