On paper, some thought they saw a 50-50 fight. It looked like it might be for a couple of rounds. After that, Saturday’s fight became a showcase for everything Regis Prograis let the world forget over the last three years.
When the final bell sounded for Josh Taylor-Regis Prograis in 2019, they stood out as the two best Jr. welterweights in the world. In the years since, Prograis’s activity was spotty while Taylor moved toward a well-built showdown with Jose Ramirez. Ramirez’s activity was enough to make arguments about moving past Prograis in the Jr. welterweight pecking order.
Against Jose Zepeda, Prograis made a statement that nothing has really changed since 2019. Taylor might remain the rightful, lineal king but the chief rival to his throne is Prograis with some room between Prograis and the rest of the pack.
Zepeda had a good opening round and the second was close but in the third Prograis started to find his rhythm and the rounds piled up. Prograis’s jab, feet, and upper body movement controlled the contest with enough hard shots up top to chip away.
By the second half of the fight, it was clear Zepeda needed to change tactics but it wasn’t clear there were any tactics that would work. In the tenth, fans got the sort of two-way action they were hoping to see all night but, as had been the case any time Zepeda landed something good, Prograis responded with more fire.
Zepeda had a choice between losing a decision and losing by knockout. There simply wasn’t a way to win. He went for it late and Prograis handed Zepeda his first real stoppage loss (Zepeda’s loss to Terry Flanagan came on an injury). Prograis now holds the WBC belt Taylor vacated and enters 2023 with the world fully, finally, reminded he never went anywhere.
Futures: Having a belt has its advantages. Prograis’s problems with activity now turn into opportunity. The WBC’s top two contenders are former titlist Jose Ramirez and former lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez. Taylor is headed toward a rematch with Jack Catterall so he’s occupied for the moment. Speculation will remain about whether or not Taylor will move to welterweight. However, if he stays, and both he and Prograis win their next fights, we could organically arrive at one hell of a rematch.
For Zepeda, it’s a hat trick of losing title chances. At 33, it would be easy to slide now. Zepeda went out on his shield but has found a ceiling for his talents and there isn’t an immediate route to a title right now. If he never wins a title, he was value added to his era as a solid contender and there’s no shame in that.
Yokasta Valle has had a great year. From unifying two titles at strawweight to now defeating a unified titlist at Jr. flyweight in Evelyn Bermudez, Valle has positioned herself for an even bigger 2023. She’s a player…Dillian Whyte got a stiff test from Jermaine Franklin but closed well and reminded boxing has been more fun for having him around during this era…Everyone makes choices. Zach Parker choosing not to go on with an injured hand could be one that haunts him. Many fighters have worked through similar and worse and fans remember things like that.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com