It was hardly the performance Jaron Ennis was looking for on Saturday when he met Ukrainian Karen Chukhadzhian for the interim IBF welterweight title at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. in the co-main event of a Showtime Pay-Per-View card.
Ennis, one of the welterweight division’s bright young stars, couldn’t get his offense untracked and never got to show the power that led him to 27 knockouts in his first 29 fights, all of which were wins.
But Ennis is a multi-faceted fighter, and managed to find a way to win going away despite not being able to get off his best stuff.
Chukhadzhian fought an extraordinarily defensive fight, and proved good at it, frustrating Ennis, who was never really able to open up.
But Ennis never quit working and pressuring and he won a wide unanimous decision over the game but outmanned Chukhadzhian. Ennis won all 12 rounds on all three judges’ scorecards, claiming a 120-108 decision across the board as he was forced to go 12 full rounds for the first time.
Chukhadzhian’s movement gave Ennis some issues, but to be fair, he also took a lot of clean shots from Ennis. The punch statistics showed that Ennis landed 46 percent of his power shots, but there was never anything remotely close to a knockdown.
Ennis did a workmanlike job of winning the rounds and avoiding a big mistake that would have gotten him in trouble.
“I learned just to take my time,” Ennis said. “I wasn’t rushing.”
It didn’t earn him many new fans, but it kept him unbeaten and gave him a belt, albeit one that doesn’t carry a lot of clout with it. Errol Spence holds the unified title, with the IBF, WBA and WBC belts, and Terence Crawford, the pound-for-pound king, is the WBO champion.
Ennis said he wants to fight all of the best, but it’s unclear what his path will be.
He showed he was in good condition and his defense was good enough to all but nullify Chukhadzhian’s jab. Chukhadzhian connected on a woeful 5 of 200 jabs and on just 92 of 373 of his power shots.
That’s the kind of bout that so many aspiring stars have to go through, and if it was Ennis’ least impressive win, that says something about him. On his worst night, he won all 12 rounds against a strong and slick opponent.