By Keith Idec
Regis Prograis made a triumphant return to New Orleans on Saturday night.
The powerful southpaw knocked down Juan Jose Velasco three times and stopped him in the eighth round at Lakefront Arena, a short distance from where Prograis grew up. Prograis (22-0, 19 KOs) was born and raised in New Orleans, but was forced to evacuate his hometown during Hurricane Katrina in September 2005 and relocated to Houston.
His victory over Velasco (20-1, 12 KOs), which was televised live by ESPN, marked Prograis’ first fight in his hometown.
Prograis dropped Velasco with body shots once apiece in the fifth, seventh and eighth rounds. Referee Laurence Cole called an end to their fight at 1:59 of the eighth round, once Velasco’s trainer, Herman Saicedo, asked him to stop it.
Prograis made the first defense of the WBC interim super lightweight title he won in his previous bout. The 29-year-old Prograis dropped Julius Indongo (22-2, 11 KOs) four times on his way to stopping the former IBF/IBO/WBA champ in the second round of their March 9 fight in Deadwood, South Dakota.
The 31-year-old Velasco was unbeaten before Saturday night, but built his record against a low level of opposition, mostly in his native Argentina.
Now that he has demolished Velasco, Prograis will get ready to fight in the World Boxing Super Series’ 140-pound tournament. The first-round matchups for that event, scheduled to begin in the fall, will be determined at a live event Friday night in Moscow.
If nothing else, Prograis got some rounds in Saturday night before heading into that tournament. His previous three fights resulted in second-round, technical-knockout victories over Indongo and Joel Diaz Jr. and a first-round stoppage of Wilfredo Buelvas, thus this fight went longer than those three wins combined.
Prograis floored Velasco with a left to the body at the 2:16 mark of the eighth round. Velasco barely beat Cole’s count after suffering a third knockdown of the fight and shook his head as he walked away from Cole once he got up.
Nevertheless, Velasco’s mouthpiece was washed off and put back in his mouth. He continued until Saicedo stepped on the ring apron and instructed Cole to stop the scheduled 12-round fight.
For the second time in three rounds, Prograis dropped Velasco with a body shot late in the seventh round. That punishing punch, a left Prograis snuck around Velasco’s guard, sent Velasco to the canvas with 36 seconds remaining in the seventh.
Velasco reached his feet again
A straight left by Prograis to Velasco’s midsection sent the challenger to the canvas with 1:01 to go in the fifth round. Velasco answered Cole’s count in time, protected his body well for the remainder of the round and survived that trouble.
Prograis stung Velasco with a straight left 1:10 into the fourth round.
Prograis’ overland left knocked Velasco backward with just over 30 seconds left in the third round.
Prograis landed a straight left hand that snapped back Velasco’s head when there were about 50 seconds to go in the second round. Velasco landed a solid right hand that knocked Prograis off balance with just under 50 seconds remaining in the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.