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How Derek ‘Bozy’ Ennis became a creator

Bozy Ennis at his gym in North Philly, where he trained his son, IBF welterweight champion Bots Ennis (Photo by Joseph Santoliquito/Ring Magazine)

by Joseph Santoliquito |

PHILADELPHIA — The nickname came from an old woman who owned a bar in West Philadelphia. A young Derek Ennis would run errands for him, and throw him pocket change, or feed him. He called her “Bo,” and it stuck. Eventually a neighbor took it, and “Bo” changed to “Bozy.” Ennis was always moving, running here, running there. He is 68 years old, although he looks like he is 48, and he still hates sitting.

In Germantown, he made a name for himself as a street slap fighter. No one wanted to mess with a tall, thin kid with fast hands. He was still lazy and it was as if he was blowing smoke. He had the kind of gravity that once you were around him, you never wanted to leave. He carries it today.

That’s why if you walk down the wooden stairs of the Grant Avenue gym in Philadelphia, where Bozy works out with his fighters, you’ll be drenched in a line of heavy bags, rhythmic punches, and a three-minute vocal that ends each burst. among the little kids running around with big boxing gloves, the teenagers hitting the sticks, the heavyweight title contenders trying to get their career back, the up-and-coming pros, the established pros, and Bozy’s esteemed student, respected IBF welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis, the youngest of his three. sons.

This Saturday, Boots (31-0, 28 knockouts) will be defending his first IBF 147-pound title against retired David Avanesyan (30-4-1, 18 KOs). It will take place in his hometown, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, at the Eddie Hearn Matchroom event on DAZN.

Bozy Ennis’ gym in North Philly, where he trained his son, IBF welterweight champion Boots Ennis (Photo by Joseph Santoliquito/Ring Magazine)

This division is scheduled for Boots, The Ring’s No. 1 contender. 2 welterweight, to take over. Ennis, 27, is sitting behind the Ring welterweight world champion, Terence “Bud” Crawford, who has revealed that he does not want parts of Boot, since “there is no money,” as he has told The Ring many times, he will fight Israel Madrimov who has won the WBA belt junior middleweight on August 3. Errol Spence Jr, who many doubt has fully recovered from the beating Crawford gave him, will move up to 154.

Hearn is looking to build Boots up in Philadelphia, an extreme sports town devoted to the NFL Eagles and nothing else, unless he wins. Boots wins. Hearn noticed for a long time. He’s managed to sell 13,000 tickets for Boot’s otherworldly talent and he’s counting on a strong following to grow into a contender.

The origin of everything lies with the creator, Derek “Bozy” Ennis, Bhuti’s father, coach and manager.

Bozy will not take credit for Boot’s success. He doesn’t want anything. Try to talk to him about him and he often intimidates you and prefers you to talk to Boot, or the other fighters he trains.

He had a modest career at the top level, going 4-2, with three strikes as a middleweight from 1977-84. He found his calling, however, in teaching boxing.

He never likes to call himself a “coach.”

His passion was for his sons to do something in the sport he focused on in his early 20s by entering the PAL Center at Seymour and Green Streets in Philadelphia.

Boots has gone too far for his three sons. Derek “Pooh” Ennis (24-5-1, 13 KOs) will be the first to admit he didn’t win, while Farah (22-2, 12 KOs) made it to the NABF super middleweight title.

None of them would be anywhere but Bozy—a man who doesn’t like to stay.

“I got into boxing because I was a street fighter, I fought southpaw style, and then I went to a boxing gym at about the age of 20, 21, to find out if I was good,” recalled Bozy, who graduated from Germantown High. . “What I’m saying about street fights is that we were hitting boxes on the streets, there is no violence when I hit someone. I beat people with one hand. I have never used my left hand. I had six pro fights. I worked in construction and in a machine shop, and before that, I worked in a candy factory. I started going to the gym to focus on my left side.”

Without any formal training, Bozy was immediately thrown into the middle with a more experienced, basic Philly gym to test the prowess of a novice fighter.

Bozy ripped the boy.

He started training fighters when his sons were born, molding, and molding them like Earl Woods who developed Tiger Woods in golf. Bozy helps celebrate. He began accepting anyone who was willing to train—and listen.

He would work 16-hour days between construction work and factory work. During the day, his eyes became half-mast. When he entered the gym at night, he woke up.

Sharon Ennis, Bozy’s wife, took care of everything else.

“He puts up with a lot, and I mean a lot,” Bozy said. “If it was someone else, he would have left me with all these things I was doing (laughing). I was always in the gym. Look at me today at the gym. You are with me today. When I do something, I do it all the way. I never did anything in between. I learned from my parents, Walter Cooley, and my mother, Dorothy Ennis. My family on my mother’s side was a fighting family.”

His uncle David worked in Philly’s brickyards. It was tough back there in the 1950s and 1960s. He was good with his hands when he had to be.

Although the original source was Bernette Ennis, Bozy’s maternal grandmother.

“There is a story that goes back to the day when this woman was walking down the street just talking, my grandmother told her not to talk like that to small children,” Bozy recalled. “They had an argument and the woman took out a knife. Grandma beat that woman. The fight came from him. He hit me. That’s where I learned to move, to get away from him (laughing).”

Rodney Bradley is a 51-year-old disabled veteran. He has known Bozy since he was 14 years old, in 1991. When he trims his salt and pepper beard, it’s really hard to tell how old Bozy is. Bozy says that comes from a good life.

“I don’t know what he’s drinking, is it the fountain of youth, because he still looks like when I first met him,” said Bradley laughing. “I train here three times a week and I’ve known Bozy for decades. One thing about Bozy and his kids, you couldn’t ask for a better boxing lineup than them. Bozy doesn’t just teach boxing, he teaches how to be a man. That’s why all these children go to him. Once Bozy has a hold of you, you don’t want to leave. Really care about you.

“You have those that don’t hold. That’s why he likes to be called a teacher before he likes to be called a coach. At school, teachers know the kids they don’t like. What I know about boxers, being around them, they know coaches who care about them and coaches who care about money. For Bozy, it’s never been about the money.

“Five minutes around Bozy, anyone can see that he cares. The backstory you hear is that Bozy was a street fighter and a good one. When I was 15, 16 years old, and I remember being in the ring with him. Trying to hit him was like trying to hit bees in a dark house with a bat. That’s where Boot finds his defense.”

Pooh, now 43, and Farah, 41, were pushed by Bozy as if he was pushing Bhuti.

“My problem was, I didn’t listen when I was young, or I was looking for ways to get out of running,” said Pooh, laughing. “There is no one among us where we are without my father. He loves boxing, and I mean he lives and breathes boxing. My father is different from the coaches today. He prefers to raise a fighter rather than get him from another trainer. And the father is difficult. We were not a good mix.

“I hated coaching (laughs). Boots love it. When Boot isn’t training himself, he’s training fighters. He lives here (in the gym), like my father. I was my worst enemy. I had it, I trusted in the power of nature. I lied and said I was running, I went out and sat in front of the railway tracks. I would come back with water on my face and say I had done a few miles. He didn’t get it. But my father saw me and Farah go through it. I never took boxing as seriously as I should have. I follow the young children we work with, scold them, ride donkeys the way my father rode me.

Jaron Boots Ennis separating Roiman Villa (Photo by Amanda Westcott-Showtime)

“All the things I didn’t like to hear from him are now coming out of my mouth (laughing).”

Pooh was 16 and Farah was 14 when Boot was born. It was as if he had three fathers, Bozy, Pooh and Farah.

“The boots are ruined,” said Pooh, laughing again. “Whatever Boot wanted, he got it. Everyone around us, many people in the city, make this fight a big deal. Look here, we’re doing the same things we do every day. It’s not that big of a deal. Everyone respects everyone here. This place is like a family. That comes from my father.”

Every time a fighter left the gym, he made sure to shake hands with everyone in the gym before he left. Call it Bozy’s unspoken law.

Christian Carto will be on the Boots-Avanesyan undercard. The 27-year-old bantamweight is 22-1, with 15 KOs, and has worked with Bozy for the past three years. He has been close to Bozy since he was 15 years old.

“I don’t think I would still be fighting if it wasn’t for Bozy,” said Carto, who has recovered from a painful loss to Victor Ruiz in 2019 and took a two-year break before returning. “I wasn’t having fun. That loss was bad and I took it hard. Bozy has put a lot of trust in me, but he does that to everyone. My defense is sharper than ever, and you can see the atmosphere around me, that it all comes from Bozy. You have white boys, black boys, young, old, women, it’s like a family and Bozy is like a father.

“It’s nice to have Bozy there. He lives in boxing. That’s why you see him at all these Philly shows, whether he has guys on the card or not. He knows as a coach he cares about you.”

Everyone in boxing seems to know Bozy now. You get calls from fighters around the world. In the Philadelphia boxing community, he is revered, as Philly’s godfather of boxing teachers. Stephen Fulton, former WBO and WBC junior featherweight champion, is working with him. Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller is trying to revive his career with Bozy in his corner, and undefeated Cuban Olympic gold medalist Any Cruz has been with him since his professional debut. On the national boxing circuit, Bozy is highly respected, not as well known as other crossover trainers. He always likes to point out that most of his players started with him; He did not inherit many fighters already made.

“That’s why I like to say that I’m a teacher more than a coach,” said Bozy. “I like to work with fighters from the ground up. I go to the old school. You have a lot of young guys coming up who are better coaches than teachers. Things I do alone. It goes back to a street performer who first learned to move and found out about sports on the streets of Germantown. I sit down and eat but (laughs).”

He won’t be staying long on Saturday night.

Bozy will be working the corners in four of the eight fights.

Joseph Santoliquito is a Hall of Fame, award-winning sportswriter who has worked for Ring Magazine/ since October 1997 and is president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Follow @JSantoliquito


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