By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Regis Prograis has his eyes on bigger prizes.
In fact, he admits names like Errol Spence Jr. and Terence Crawford infiltrate his career dreams.
But before he climbs the ambition ladder to welterweight, there’s important work to be done.
The dynamic 29-year-old begins his final resume-building offensive at 140 pounds this weekend, when he’ll head back to his native New Orleans stomping grounds for an initial salvo in the World Boxing Super Series super lightweight/junior welterweight tournament at Lakefront Arena.
Prograis, who’s slotted first in the weight class by Ring Magazine and fourth – behind Mikey Garcia, Josh Taylor and Adrien Broner – by the Independent World Boxing Rankings, will face ex-WBO world title claimant Terry Flanagan in a quarterfinal matchup he, as the overall bracket’s top seed, made happen.
He was given the choice of either Flanagan – a UK native with a single loss in 34 fights – or unbeaten prospect Ryan Martin, who’s never had a scheduled 12-round bout and has gone beyond eight rounds just once in 22 appearances since turning pro in 2013.
Neither Flanagan nor Martin are ranked by The Ring, though Flanagan holds down IWBR position No. 8 while Martin is again unranked.
So, when it came time to choose, Prograis said Flanagan was a no-brainer.
“I chose him because he was a tougher fight,” he said.
“For me, he was a tougher fight than Ryan Martin. He has a better resume. I want to fight people with a good resume. He’s a former world champion. Ryan Martin is a good fighter, but he’s not a former world champion and he doesn’t have a resume like Terry Flanagan.
“I want to fight people like that. Right now, I’m ranked No. 1 on most people’s lists and I want to keep that. I want to fight better people. I felt like he was the harder choice. He was the tougher competition.”
Flanagan, who’s also 29, won the WBO lightweight title in 2015 and defended five times before jumping to 140 and losing a split 12-round nod to Maurice Hooker for the vacant WBO strap on June 9.
The trip to Louisiana will mark his first professional venture outside the UK, and it’ll also be his 10th bout between the lightweight and junior welterweight limits – where he’s 8-1 with three KOs in nine tries.
The winner of Saturday’s encounter will advance to a semifinal against WBA champ Kiryl Relikh, and the weekend undercard in New Orleans will also feature a vacant IBF title bout – and tournament quarterfinal – pitting No. 1 contender Ivan Baranchyk against No. 3 Anthony Yigit.
The other remaining tournament fight, set for Nov. 3, matches the aforementioned Taylor and Martin.
“At the end of the day, people are going to say ‘Who did you fight?’ That’s what everybody always brings up,” Prograis said. “I want to say I fought champions, former champions, undefeated fighters. I already have that on my resume and I want to add another former champion.”
Ultimately, a Muhammad Ali Trophy could propel Prograis into the other 140-pound showdown he craves, a date with reigning WBC champ Jose Carlos Ramirez.
Ramirez has been a champion since defeating Amir Imam on March 17 and successfully defended last month against previously unbeaten Antonio Orozco.
He’s ranked third by The Ring and 12th by the IWBR, but is not in the tournament.
So, in the meantime, the man dubbed “Rougarou” – and holder of the WBC’s bogus “diamond” title behind Ramirez – is happy to take on willing WBSS comers.
“I love it. I know we hear it all the time, but it really is the best fighting the best. If somebody wins, they move on,” he said. “In boxing, you have a lot of loopholes. You can be mandatory and you still might not fight the champion. That’s the thing that happened with me and Ramirez.
“But with this tournament style, you know who you’re going to fight. If you win, you fight again. You lose, you’re out. I’m a big-time competitor. That’s why I’m in boxing. I love to compete. I want to fight the best. For me, in my opinion, in my mind, it’s great. This is great for boxing.
“I’m not worried about anybody’s style or anything like that. I don’t care. I want to fight.”
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBF middleweight title – New York, New York
Sergiy Derevyanchenko (No. 1 IBF/No. 10 IWBR) vs. Daniel Jacobs (No. 3 IBF/No. 3 IWBR)
Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KO): First title fight; Six straight wins by KO/TKO (36 total rounds)
Jacobs (34-2, 29 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Two straight points wins after 14 straight KO/TKO
Fitzbitz says: It’s a trendy thing these days to assume Ukrainians are superior in power and technique, but Jacobs has been a commodity at 160 for a while and finally gets his belt. Jacobs by decision (75/25)
Vacant IBF junior welterweight title – New Orleans, Louisiana
Ivan Baranchyk (No. 2 IBF/No. 25 IWBR) vs. Anthony Yigit (No. 3 IBF/No. 14 IWBR)
Baranchyk (18-0, 11 KO): First title fight; Second fight scheduled for 12 rounds (1-0, 1 KO)
Yigit (21-0-1, 7 KO): First title fight; First fight in the United States
Fitzbitz says: Independent rankings suggest Yigit is more than 10 places higher, but it’s this space’s assumption that the Russian has taken on a better grade of opponent. Baranchyk in 10 (70/30)
Vacant IBF junior flyweight title – Pasay City, Philippines
Felix Alvarado (No. 1 IBF/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Randy Petalcorin (No. 3 IBF/Unranked IWBR)
Alvarado (33-2, 29 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Nine straight wins by KO/TKO (15 total rounds)
Petalcorin (29-2-1, 22 KO): First title fight; Ninth fight scheduled for 12 rounds (6-1-1, 4 KO)
Fitzbitz says: While it’s true the Nicaraguan has failed twice on the championship stage, it’s no less true that his foe in this one hasn’t exactly been feasting on top-tier opposition. Alvarado in 7 (80/20)
This week’s garbage title-fight schedule:
WBA super featherweight title – New York, New York
Alberto Machado (“champion”) vs. Yuandale Evans (No. 9 WBA)
Why it’s garbage: You want to say Machado ought to be the WBA’s No. 1 guy ahead of Gervonta Davis, fine. But according to the organization itself, he’s not. And so long as Davis is the top champion, he’s the only champion worthy of being recognized. Mentioning secondary titles gives them undue credibility.
Last week's picks: 4-0 (WIN: Farmer, Rodriguez, Mimoune, Andrade)
2018 picks record: 73-31 (70.1 percent)
Overall picks record: 993-335 (74.7 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.