Story and photos by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Farah Ennis, the Philly super middleweight known as “The Quiet Storm”, 21-1, 12 KOs, meets undefeated prospect Badou Jack, 14-0, 11 KOs, Friday night on Showtime’s ShoBox live boxing series. The fight is a big opportunity for the Philly fighter to step up and show the boxing world his potential.
Although he has fought on national television twice before, Ennis is far from a household name among boxing fans. An impressive win over the undefeated Jack might serve as his introduction, but the careful fighter knows he must increase the level of his quiet storm by a category or two to get the job done.
Farah Ennis trains at his father’s gym in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Bozy’s Dungeon, as it is known in Philly, is on the top floor, and spreads out like a big old barn. There are two rings, tons of equipment, and walls full of moldy old boxing posters. However the place has the feel of a family living room. The boxers there work hard, but there is an atmosphere of play. Like a backyard wiffle ball game in the suburbs. Not every fighter there is an Ennis, but three of them are: Derek, Farah, and Jaron.
Bozy, the father of the Ennis boys, is in charge of the place, and runs everything with an upbeat, edginess. He watches, advises, and instructs several boxers at the same time, yelling over to the next ring, or down the row of heavy bags, if necessary.
Farah Ennis grew up in a boxing gym like this, the original Bozy’s Dungeon at another location. The Ennis brothers all have the sport in their cells, even 16 year old Jaron, whom Bozy, a former fighter himself, says may be the most talented of his three sons. But these days, it is Farah’s turn in the spotlight. The six foot super middleweight is big and powerful. In his early days around the Philly boxing scene, he knocked out many of his opponents. But more recently, Farah has become a careful boxer, almost reluctant to bring out his power.
One year ago he scored an excellent win over Richard Pierson on ESPN. But the win was cautious and guarded, not the attention-grabbing performance it could have been.
“I blame me for that,” said trainer Bozy Ennis. “I told him to go in there and have fun, don’t worry about looking for the knockout.” It was almost a year before Ennis fought again. An interim ESPN fight (in April) was scraped the day of the bout when his opponent came in 20 pounds overweight. The frustrated Ennis immediately returned to the gym, hoping another fight would come up quickly.
He eventually landed another fight on June 7th against Anthony Hanshaw, again on ESPN. Ennis won the bout by unanimous decision, but didn’t bring out the artillery until the 10th and final round, when he dropped Hanshaw to nail down the win. However, once again, it was a very cautious performance.
“I understand why he was like that (cautious) in the fight he just fought,” Bozy said. “He peeked too soon. He was supposed to fight a guy April 12th. We trained December to April, and I told Farah he had to take off at least a couple weeks. If you don’t, you’ll get stale. And that came to mind when he was fighting (against Hanshaw). I was telling him to do certain things but he couldn’t do it. He never took off like I told him. You know, you gotta break your body down and build it back up. You just can’t go straight through like that. That’s what happened with Hanshaw. Now you see at the end, when he turned it up? He could have knocked Hanshaw out in round three or round four, if he had done that (earlier).”
Farah feels it was all part of the developmental process that comes with advancing as a pro.
“(It was) just me needing to get focused and knowing what it means to be a fighter and be a champion,” Farah said. “Now I’m at that point where I know. I just need to be in shape and be ready at all times.”
In his fight Friday night, Ennis faces a “hometown” guy, Badou Jack, 14-0, 10 KOs, a Swedish-born boxer now fighting out of Las Vegas. Jack is a touted prospect with strong credentials. He went 150-25 as an amateur, and made it all the way to the Olympic Games in 2008.
As a professional, Jack, nicknamed “The Ripper”, is undefeated and has a solid KO percentage, but his list of opponents is fairly obscure. He fought journeyman Grover Young in 2012 six rounder, but failed to stop him, something that Ennis managed to do in five rounds, earlier the same year. Still Jack is the likely favorite in Friday’s bout, and Ennis may have the additional burden of needing to win big to get the win. “I don’t know much about him,” Ennis said. “He’s from Sweden. He’s an Olympian. He’s a boxer-puncher, but he’s coming forward.”
“I saw him fight before,” trainer Bozy Ennis said. “He’s a good little fighter. Yeah, I think he’s a good little fighter, but he’s ordinary to me. Farah has tricks. He (Jack) don’t have no tricks.”
Farah understands that this fight is one that he needs to win convincingly.
“First time on Showtime, first time in Vegas,” Farah said. “I need to make a statement. I need to show everybody who Farah Ennis is. I need to bring it out, let them see the power.”
His father agrees. “This one right here is a statement fight,” Bozy said. “All he has to do is box and let his hands go.”
“I feel good,” Farah said. “I know I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Feels real good.”
“If he wins this fight, he’s right at the top again,” Bozy added. “When he won the NABF (title), he was at number eight or nine. He should be right back in contention. And then one more fight, he could fight for a title shot. Andre Ward, that’s the guy. That’s who I want him to fight. That would be a good fight.”
So the stage is set, and Farah Ennis knows what he must do. “Just listen to my Dad,” Farah said. “And be busy. Let my hands go. I’m going into his hometown. I’m fighting on his promoter’s card. So I gotta win. I can’t let him outwork me.”
To read more about the Philly fight scene, visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.