Regis Prograis is man enough to admit he was wrong.
The former WBA super lightweight champion has publicly referred to Jake Paul and other YouTubers as “clowns,” circus acts that are bad for legitimate boxers. Prograis realizes that he was shortsighted, that having inexperienced, popular fighters attract viewers who wouldn’t otherwise watch elite-level boxers like him is great for the sport.
It helps, of course, that Triller will pay Prograis approximately three times as much for his April 17 fight against Ivan Redkach than the New Orleans native earned for his third-round stoppage of Juan Heraldez on the Gervonta Davis-Leo Santa Cruz pay-per-view undercard October 31 at Alamodome in San Antonio.
The 10-round, 142-pound bout between Prograis (25-1, 21 KOs) and Ukraine’s Redkach (23-5-1, 18 KOs, 1 NC) will be the co-feature of Triller’s pay-per-view show next month. Social media sensation Jake Paul and former UFC fighter Ben Askren will square off in the main event, an eight-round cruiserweight boxing match.
“To be honest, I actually Tweeted some sh-t I think when Jake Paul was fighting another YouTube fighter,” Prograis told BoxingScene.com. “I was critical of them. I was like, ‘They’re clowns,’ and stuff like that. But, you know, you’ve just gotta sit down and realize they’re bringing more eyes to the sport, people like that. And at the end of the day, that is the goal.
“Being a boxing historian, like I am, sometimes you don’t wanna see it. You don’t wanna make a mockery of your sport, like a circus. But at the same time, if you’re gonna have fighters on like myself, that are gonna be in real fights, I think it’s a good thing because it’s bringing a whole new audience to boxing.”
The 32-year-old Prograis likened the attention drawn by Jake Paul and his brother, Logan Paul, to Muhammad Ali fighting professional wrestler Antonio Inoki in June 1976 and George Foreman facing five opponents in one night in April 1975.
“It’s just a different form of entertainment,” Prograis said. “And at least they’re gonna have real boxing on it, too. So, like I said, it is a good thing to have a different fan base. Jake Paul and Logan Paul, they have millions of followers and a huge social media presence. A lot of kids don’t tune in to [boxing]. They focus on the little screens, their phones. Now, they’re gonna be tuning to this. So, it’s definitely a market and I’m glad I’m a part of it.”
ESPN, DAZN and Showtime all have either televised or streamed Prograis’ fights over the past 5½ years. While appreciative of how those outlets have helped promote him, Prograis expects his upcoming appearance on Jake Paul’s undercard to broaden his fan base significantly.
“This is gonna be huge,” Prograis said. “This fight actually might do more for my career, as far as publicity, than all the other fights combined. Of course, that’s if everything goes as planned – if the fans tune in. It’s just a whole different type of fan base. I’m just excited about it.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.