The next fight for Jaron 'Boots' Ennis won't be so voluntary, after all. has learned that the IBF has ordered the unbeaten welterweight titlist to next defense versus Cody Crowley. The two sides were actually summoned to enter a 30-day negotiation period beginning on January 31. 

"IBF Welterweight Champion Jaron Ennis was promoted to Champion November 28, 2023, his mandatory defense is due on or before March 28, 2024," IBF championship chairman Carols Ortiz stated to representatives for both boxers in a letter obtained by Boxing Scene. "The leading available contender is # 3 Cody Crowley.

"Negotiations should commence immediately and be concluded by March 1, 2024 If you are unable to come to an agreement for this bout within the 30 days, the IBF will call for a purse bid."

Ennis is represented by his father and head trainer Derek 'Bozy' Ennis, given his current lawsuit with estranged promoter NOW Boxing Promotions. TGB Promotions' Tom Brown was named as the point of contact in negotiations for Crowley.

The mandated fight flew well under the radar, particularly as the sanctioning body ordered what is supposed to be a final eliminator between Karen Chukhadzhian (23-1, 13KOs) and Harry Scarff (13-2, 3KOs). As Boxing Scene previously reported, Wasserman Boxing won a recent purse bid hearing to gain promotional rights

It was believed that Philadelphia's Ennis (31-0, 28KOs) was entitled to a voluntary defense but he is instead locked in to the ordered fight. Per IBF Rule 9C, both participants are required to honor the ordered title fight to avoid disciplinary action handed down by the sanctioning body.

Any fighter who abandons the purse bid process or does not honor the outcome will receive a demotion in the rankings plus a six-month probation period where they cannot participate in an IBF-sanctioned fight. 

Ontario's Crowley (22-0, 9KOs) is the number-three ranked contender with the IBF. The first two spots are vacant, a common practice for the sanctioning body in the absence of a qualified mandatory challenger through a title eliminator. 

The 30-year-old southpaw—who trains in Las Vegas—has not fought since a twelve-round, majority decision victory over Abel Ramos (27-6-2, 21KOs) last March 25 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The win saw Crowley advance in the rankings with the WBC, who sanctioned the bout as a title eliminator. 

Little movement came from Crowley's career after that. He has fought just once in each of the past four years and has publicly expressed frustration over the lack of notable opportunities.

Interestingly, his name was attached to rumors of a potential bout versus Ennis last November 25 on the David Benavidez-Demetrius Andrade undercard at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.

Ennis won an interim version of the IBF welterweight title in a twelve-round, unanimous decision over Chukhadzhian last January 6 in Washington D.C. 

An upgrade to full titlist came at the tail end of his ordered title consolidation bout versus then-undisputed champ Terence 'Bud' Crawford (40-0, 31KOs) last summer. Crawford informed the IBF at the end of the negotiation period that he could not move forward with the bout due to a contractually bound rematch with Errol Spence Jr. (28-1, 22KOs).

The IBF proceeded to strip Crawford of the belt, which left Ennis as a recognized major title holder.

Ennis last fought in a tenth-round knockout of Roiman Villa (26-2, 24KOs) atop a July 8 Showtime card from  Boardwalk Hall’s Adrian Phillips Theater in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The bout marked the lone defense of his interim title before received the full version of the belt. 

Jake Donovan is just a guy. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox