By Francisco Salazar
Regis Prograis is undefeated and considered one of, if not, the best fighter at 140 pounds. That may be good enough for many fighters, but Prograis’ ambitions and goals go far beyond that.
Prograis wants to not only win all the world title belts in the division but become the best and earn top dollar before he permanently hangs up the gloves.
That all starts tonight when he faces former WBO lightweight titleholder Terry Flanagan at the Lakefront Arena in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.
The 12-round fight, along with the showdown between Ivan Baranchyk and Anthony Yigit for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title, will stream live on DAZN (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).
The fight is a quarterfinal match-up of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) 140-pound tournament.
Prograis has made a name for himself thus far with his exceptional power and fan-friendly style. The southpaw Prograis is the mandatory challenger for the WBC title, held by Jose Ramirez.
In his last bout on July 14, the southpaw Prograis dropped Argentina’s Juan Jose Velasco three times en route to an eighth-round knockout victory. It was a showcase fight for Prograis, who is at the peak of his career and wants to begin collecting world title belts, large purses, and trophies.
He can do all three should he win the tournament, which includes the Ali Trophy. Prograis is glad to be in the tournament, where the winner will be the consensus best fighter at 140 pounds.
“I like the tournament style,” Prograis told a small pool of media at a recent gathering in Las Vegas. “There are so many champions in each weight class. There are always arguments and discussions as to who the best is. (With the tournament), you have to fight the opponent. You win and you move on. There no ducking around.”
“In boxing, you fight for two things: belts and money. Usually, if you have the best, you get the money. In the tournament, it's both.”
Prograis (22-0, 19 knockouts) could have had the option of fighting unbeaten Ryan Martin, who is now ranked at 140 pounds, or Flanagan. Prograis chose Flanagan because of the stronger challenge the British brings to the fight.
“I had two choices: Ryan Martin or Terry Flanagan,” said Prograis, who has fought on several ‘ShoBox’ telecasts and is promoted by Lou DiBella. “I felt that Terry Flanagan was better for me because he is ranked higher on ESPN. Jose Ramirez beat Antonio Orozco (on Sept. 14), so that moves (Ramirez) up higher in the rankings. So I have to the same thing.”
“I'm in the sport to be a competitor. To me, Terry Flanagan is a more-difficult fight for me. Ryan Martin is good. He's okay, but he doesn't have a resume like Terry Flanagan. I'm supposed to beat both of them, but if I beat Ryan Martin (in the first round), I would be looked down more. Terry Flanagan is a former world champion. That's why I choose him. He's a more-difficult fight. He has way more experience.”
Prograis will be fighting again tonight in his hometown. Prograis has created a buzz in New Orleans and it showed with the almost-sellout crowd in attendance to watch his fight against Velasco.
Prograis wants to put on a better performance tonight than in the Velasco fight, where he admitted he was nervous in his walk to the ring.
“It was more than what I expected. To be honest, I got nervous. I know I got the knockout, but I didn’t fight the way I should’ve fought. I got hit too much. I should’ve gotten the knockout earlier. I came through the tunnel and when I saw all the people there for me, I was kind of nervous. People had asked me leading up to the fight if I was going to be nervous and I responded, ‘I don’t know.’ I can’t tell you until after the fight, so I’m telling you I was nervous.”
“Before the fight, that (Top Rank ‘This is Boxing’) video came on and they played highlights of the (Muhammad) Ali fight, the Pacquiao fight. When I watched that, I got hyped because I’ve watched that as a fan. I thought I was in the audience. I was emotional. It hit me. I have to fight.”
Prograis’ success comes from his difficult upbringing during high school. Prograis had to leave New Orleans in 2005 a day before Hurricane Katrina struck that area of the United States, causing billions of dollars in damage and claiming the lives of over 1,800.
Prograis had to move around a lot, but he believes the difficult stage of dealing with constantly moving and doing odds jobs in construction shaped his mindset to be strong.
“There was six to eight feet of water in my house (9th Ward East). You had no choice but to move unless you wanted to swim in your room. I left New Orleans with had 2 pairs of jeans, three shirts, two pairs of socks, a pair of shoes and two pairs of underwear Everybody lost everything. The only good thing about Hurricane Katrina was no one I knew died from the storm.”
“We moved around a lot. We went to Houston to live. I went to five different high schools because I was 16 when the storm hit. I went to Houston, then to Mississippi, then Slidell (Louisiana), then back to Houston. I think I moved around 18 different times. I lived in hotels and with family friends. Houston was good because they helped us get clothes and get stuff for free. Katrina made me stronger. There’s no such thing as a bad thing because I learned from it and you can’t hold on to material things. I went through Katrina and Hurricane Harvey.”
Even at 29, Prograis believes he has yet to peak as a complete fighter. He resides in Houston, but has trained in Southern California before, where he spars against world titleholders and contenders.
He wants to unify, but Prograis does not want to be in the sport for too long. Prograis is willing to face all comers, including WBC titleholder Jose Ramirez.
For now, the WBSS tournament, where he is the favorite to win, is his focus.
“Ramirez is definitely a factor, but there’s better competition in the tournament. Actually, all fighters in the tournament are solid. Josh Taylor is real good. Ivan Baranchyk is good. I see myself in the final with Baranchyk. They are on the other side of the bracket. Style makes fights. All of the fights are hard. Anybody can win that tournament.”
“I haven’t scratched the surface (yet). I’m 22-0 with 19 knockouts. I’m ranked number one in the world, but I want so much more. Like Ali, Ray Robinson, and Mike Tyson. I want all the belts. Boxing is a small period of life so I want to do as I much I can before I leave boxing. I don’t want to stay in it for way too long.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing