By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – The WBC has mandated that Jose Ramirez must make his first title defense against Regis Prograis.
Bob Arum, Ramirez’s promoter, has another idea.
Arum wants to pair Ramirez, who won the WBC super lightweight title Saturday night, and Prograis, the newly crowned WBC interim 140-pound champion, in separate fights as part of an ESPN doubleheader sometime in June or July. Assuming Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs) and Prograis (21-0, 18 KOs) win those fights, Arum would then make a Ramirez-Prograis bout toward the end of this year.
The Hall-of-Fame promoter already has discussed his plan with Lou DiBella, Prograis’ promoter.
“I talked with Lou and we’re gonna see if we can put them on the same bill next, and then have them matched,” Arum said following Ramirez’s 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat of Amir Imam in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. “So then people will know Prograis.”
Arum added that the Ramirez-Prograis doubleheader would take place at a minor-league baseball stadium in the Fresno, California, area, where Ramirez has become one of boxing’s biggest draws thanks in part to his social activism. When informed of his proposed appearance on a Ramirez undercard, Prograis expressed reluctance.
“I don’t think I wanna fight on a Ramirez card,” said Prograis, who watched Ramirez-Imam from ringside. “I’m already the mandatory for him. I wanna fight for the belt. By the WBC, I’m mandated to fight the champion next. I really felt like me & Indongo should’ve been a championship fight, or me and [Viktor] Postol. So I feel like I wanna fight for the belt next.”
New Orleans’ Prograis knocked out former IBF/IBO/WBA champ Julius Indongo (22-2, 11 KOs) in the second round to win the WBC interim super lightweight title March 9 in Deadwood, South Dakota. Prograis was supposed to fight Ukraine’s Postol that night, but Indongo replaced Postol (29-1, 12 KOs) on three weeks’ notice because Postol suffered a thumb injury during training camp.
Ramirez beat Imam (21-2, 18 KOs) to win the unclaimed WBC 140-pound championship Terence Crawford relinquished to move up to the welterweight division last year.
Prograis is concerned that if he agrees to participate in a doubleheader that would feature Ramirez, and they both win, that he still won’t get to challenge Ramirez in his following fight.
“We’ll take to the promoters and we’ll see,” Prograis said. “But I’m a competitor. I wanna fight the names. I still wanna fight Postol. I wanna fight someone like Adrien Broner. And I wanna fight Ramirez. You know, but of course, before anything I wanna get the belt. I don’t want [Ramirez] to trying to swiggle around. And I know they might wanna try to get Pacquiao to fight [Ramirez]. I don’t know, but it might happen.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.