Regis Prograis befriended Jermell Charlo and his twin brother, Jermall, when they were all teenagers trying to find their way in boxing.
Prograis, who relocated to Houston after Hurricane Katrina ravaged his hometown of New Orleans, obviously hopes his friend pulls off an upset Saturday night in the biggest fight of Jermell Charlo’s 15-year professional boxing career. The WBC super lightweight champion also understands that Canelo Alvarez will be the most accomplished, formidable fighter Charlo will have encountered in any of his 38 pro bouts when they square off at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Prograis stressed during an interview with BoxingScene.com that Charlo can dethrone Alvarez, but only if boxing’s undisputed 154-pound champion doesn’t get “greedy” in his first fight as a super middleweight. He must approach Alvarez cautiously, according to Prograis, because the favored Alvarez can make most opponents pay if they try to exchange too much with the Mexican legend.
“Jermell can box,” Prograis said. “And Jermell does have power. Does he have the power to knock out a Canelo? I don’t know, but usually it’s the punches that you don’t see that hurt you more than the punches that you do see. So, I think that he will definitely have to, early in the fight, use his legs a lot. He does have a real good jab. So, of course, use his legs, pop out his jab and then, you know, hit him with some big shots every now and then. But don’t get too greedy. You know, I think if you get too greedy that’s when you might get caught with something.”
From Prograis’ perspective, that’s what happened to Ryan Garcia when he fought Gervonta Davis on April 22 at T-Mobile Arena.
Exchanging with the dangerous Davis led to Garcia getting knocked down during the second round of their 12-round, 136-pound bout. Davis dropped Garcia again with a body shot in the seventh round, when Garcia couldn’t answer referee Thomas Taylor’s count and lost by knockout.
“I saw Bernard Hopkins say the same thing about Ryan Garcia when he fought Gervonta Davis,” Prograis recalled. “He said, ‘Look, you can do this, but don’t get too greedy.’ And that’s exactly what Ryan did. Ryan got too greedy. Ryan was hitting him early, and then he got too greedy and he got caught.
“Jermell can’t make that mistake. If he’s having success early, and he’s feeling like, ‘I can touch him. I can touch him,’ don’t get too greedy. You know, like hit him, score some big shots every now and then, but I think for the most part definitely don’t get too greedy – unless you see a shoot-for-kill, then you go for it.”
The 6-foot Charlo stands four inches taller than the 5-foot-8 Alvarez, yet Alvarez (59-2-2, 39 KOs) has fought twice at the light heavyweight limit of 175 pounds. The four-division champion is also 7-0 in super middleweight matches, whereas Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs) will fight for the first time at the super middleweight limit of 168 pounds.
Alvarez is thus listed by most sportsbooks as a 4-1 favorite to deny Charlo in his bid to become boxing’s second male two-division undisputed champion of the four-belt era. Prograis nevertheless expects Charlo to rise to the occasion in the main event of Showtime Pay-Per-View’s four-fight telecast (8 p.m. EDT; 5 p.m. PDT; $84.99).
“Obviously, I roll with Jermell any day,” Prograis said. “I’m definitely going for him. But he’s fighting Canelo. That’s the thing, you know, he’s fighting the biggest name in the sport. He’s going up two divisions. It’s gonna be a hard thing. It’s definitely gonna be a hard task. But, for me, I’m rolling with Jermell. I think what separates him is his mindset. He really wants this. You know, he has a chip on his shoulder. He had a chip on his shoulder since we was teenagers. He wanted that recognition that I feel like he really doesn’t get.
“You know, he became undisputed at ’54 and people really don’t even give him the pound-for-pound ranking. So, I think that, you know, with this, I mean, ‘Mell is really, really hungry. He wants this. But it’s just a tough task. If it was anybody but Canelo, it’d be [different]. But it’s Canelo. You know, it’s a big task in front of him.”
Prograis (29-1, 24 KOs) is training for his own big task, a defense of his WBC 140-pound crown against undefeated, undisputed lightweight champ Devin Haney (30-0, 15 KOs). Their 12-round title fight will headline a DAZN Pay-Per-View show December 9 from Chase Center in San Francisco.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.