By John DiSanto – PhillyBoxngHistory.com
An important all-Philly crossroads fight is set for Friday night at the 2300 Arena in South Philly, with the career momentum of two well-liked local fighters at stake. In one corner, the surging Jaron Ennis, 21-0, 19 KOs, will look to continue his rapid rise in the welterweight division and secure his position as the young Philly fighter to watch.
Across the ring, Raymond Serrano, 24-5, 10 KOs, 1 NC, will attempt to stand his ground as his career recedes before him, knowing that a win over the touted Ennis will redirect his professional course. The nationally televised (SHOBOX) scheduled ten-rounder is the main event of a ten-bout card co-promoted by Hard Hitting Promotions and Victory Promotions.
Everyone has been watching Jaron Ennis since before he turned professional in 2016. After an extraordinary amateur career, the youngest member of the fighting Ennis family debuted as a pro and began exceeding the very high expectations set for him. Often a young fighter is branded as a future champion, many times merely by reflex, as if rising to the top is a given. However, in Ennis’ case, those expectations seemed more realistic than mere hype, every time he fought.
Jaron’s natural skills and prodigious work ethic has led to win after win over the last thirty months or so. He’s stayed extremely busy and has easily beaten everyone placed before him, including recognizable names like Mike Arnaoutis (TKO2), Ayi Bruce (TKO1), Samuel Amoako (TKO1), George Sosa (KO2), and others. In his last start, Ennis stopped then-undefeated Armando Alvarez (TKO3) to win his first regional belt.
Ennis appears ready to step up to the next level, but we still don’t know for sure what will happen when he wades into the very deep waters of the talent-rich welterweight division. Fighting Serrano on Friday night probably won’t provide a clear cut answer to that question, but perhaps Serrano may be the best measuring stick Ennis has yet stepped in against.
Many believe that Raymond Serrano might just be more fodder for Ennis’ drive to a title shot, and has no chance. After an eighteen-fight win streak to start his career, Serrano’s ride got rocky once he stepped up against better competition. First he lost back to back bouts by stoppage against Karim Mayfield and Emmanuel Taylor. After a few interim wins, Serrano then lost consecutive decisions to Brad Solomon and Alex Saucedo. Most recently, he dropped another decision to Malik Hawkins, earlier this year.
These bumps in Serrano’s road set a pattern that suggested, that although Raymond certainly is a competent fighter, he falters every time he steps up. Further, even in some of his recent wins, Serrano has looked a little worse for wear. He’s been dropped and wobbled in fights that were expected to be a breeze, suggesting that his viability as a significant fighter is drying up.
For Serrano, Ennis is clearly an opponent in the “step up” category. So, it makes sense that most look at this fight as another easy assignment for Ennis. Although this very well may prove to be the case, I believe that Serrano represents the best test to date to measure Ennis’ progress, and the urgency of the bout might force a good showing.
This is not to say that I expect an upset in Friday’s fight. However, given that we know more about Serrano than any of Ennis’ other foes, I believe that the fight will give us the truest vision of Ennis’ ability.
As for an upset, although unlikely, Serrano is at the true crossroads of his career. A convincing defeat at the hands of Ennis will probably mark the end of his run. Therefore, we should expect the best possible Serrano possible. HE needs a win like never before. As a fighter, he’s never quite made it to the next level, beating Ennis would change that reputation. A tall task to be sure, but these are the fights that often are the most interesting. Thus Ennis-Serrano is a must-see match up.
The rest of the card is loaded with promise too.
Hot-shot teenager Branden Pizarro, 12-1, 6 KOs, faces rugged journeyman Jerome Rodriguez, 7-10-3, 2 KOs, in an eight-round lightweight bout. Pizarro has all the momentum, but Rodriguez is a tough test for any young fighter. Just ask Jeremy Cuevas who was stretched to the limit by Rodriguez last month. This is a terrific test for Pizarro.
Philly rookie Benny Sinakin (1-0) returns for his second pro bout, this time matched against Darren Gibbs (1-5, 1 KO) of Michigan, in a four round light heavyweight bout. Sinakin made a sizzling debut in October and looks like a fan-favorite in the making.
I’m also interested in the eight-rounder between Philly junior welterweight Samuel Teah, 14-2-1, 7 KOs, and Chicago’s Kenneth Sims Jr., 13-1-1, 4 KOs. The fighters have similar records, although Sims performed better against common opponent Montana Love. Sims fought to a split draw against Love, while Teah was recently blanked in a lopsided decision loss.
Hard Hitting Promotions regular, Gadwin Rosa, 8-0, 7 KOs, faces uber-experienced German Meraz, 61-50-2, 38 KOs in a six-round featherweight fight. Meraz lost to Philly’s Stephen Fulton in his last outing, and although he’s been stopped eight times, is a tough customer. It will be interesting to see if Rosa can handle the Mexican’s experience, and if Meraz’ chin can take Rosa’s consistently stiff punch. Most of the Florida-based Puerto Rican’s wins have come early.
Also appearing on the card:
Christian Tapia, 6-0, 5 KOs, against no-hoper Darnell Pettis, 3-12, in a four-rounder.
Kieran Hooks, 3-1-1, 1 KO, meets Gledwin Ortiz, 5-2, 4 KOs, in a four-rounder.
Arnold Khegai, 13-0-1, 9 KOs, versus Jorge Diaz, 19-5-1, 10 KOs, eight rounds.
David Stevens makes his pro debut against Dustin Long, 0-1-2, four rounds.
Branden’s brother Angel Pizarro, 4-0, 3 KOs, is also scheduled to fight, but no opponent has been named for him yet.
Tickets for the show are reportedly sold out, but the top of the card will be broadcast live on Showtime’s SHOBOX series beginning at 9:35 PM. The live show in South Philly begins at 7:00 PM.
To read more about the Philly fight scene, visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.