Placing him in the co-feature spot on a card with a lightweight-title main event between Gervonta Davis and Hector Luis Garcia should position Ennis to vault into the next phase of his career: headlining a pay-per-view world title fight.
“That’s the only question any knowledgeable boxing fan is asking about Boots,” Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s president of sports and event programming, said in an interview. “What happens when he fights one of the world champions? We’re going to see that happen, I believe, in 2023.”
Showtime signed Ennis after his promoter, the veteran boxing power broker Cameron Dunkin, suggested the network feature him on ShoBox, the network’s series of fights between top young prospects, in 2018. But the current structure of big-time boxing makes such deals, between an individual boxer and a broadcast platform, rare.
Davis, Spence and other fighters who appear on Showtime do so because they’re signed to Premier Boxing Champions, the managerial outfit that supplies most of the network’s boxing content. If boxing is like college football, P.B.C. could be the Big Ten Conference. That setup would make Top Rank, which partners with ESPN, the boxing equivalent of the SEC. Together, they dominate the sport’s television broadcast landscape in the United States.
In this scenario, Ennis is sort of like Notre Dame — independent, yet still valuable to a broadcaster.
“I have the platform now,” Ennis said. “I’m a main-event fighter.”
But where Notre Dame has cultivated a large and loyal following over decades, Ennis, at 25, still lacks the profile of his rivals, who are in their 30s. Spence has 936,000 Instagram followers, and Crawford has 850,000. Ennis’s Instagram following, as of Thursday night, numbered 255,000.
Espinoza, for his part, says Ennis is poised for a breakthrough in the welterweight class, one of boxing’s marquee divisions, and fights with a crowd-pleasing style that will earn mainstream sports fans’ attention if he keeps winning.