By Thomas Gerbasi
In a boxing universe where many fighters seem to roll out of bed and into a world title shot, unbeaten junior welterweight contender Regis Prograis had to do a little bit more to get his crack at the interim WBC title against Julius Indongo on March 9.
Okay, a lot.
Spending September in his wife’s native Brazil to visit family and have some down time following his breakthrough knockout of Joel Diaz Jr. in June, Prograis got a call from his manager that he had to take a trip to Azerbaijan to make an appearance at the WBC convention. There, Mauricio Sulaiman ordered the interim title fight between Prograis and Viktor Postol, but first, the New Orleans native had to get to Baku.
“I was flying for about two days straight,” said Prograis, who traveled from Rio de Janeiro to the United States to Germany and then Azerbaijan. Add in a stint getting sick in the airport, and clearly, “It wasn’t a pleasant trip at all.”
But when it was over, he had his shot, and that’s all that matters to the 29-year-old southpaw.
“It’s something I’ve been waiting on and it took a while, but I’m real excited and I couldn’t wait to start training camp for the fight.”
Wait, there’s more. On February 12, Postol pulled out of the fight due to injury, putting the once-beaten Indongo into the bout. Like Postol, Indongo’s lone loss came against pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford, so a win puts Prograis in some select company and also gives him a belt and a shot against the winner of the March 17 bout between Jose Ramirez and Amir Imam for the vacant WBC 140-pound title. Confused? This is boxing, but in today’s modern game, a belt means bigger opportunities, and Prograis knows it.
“I know it’s an interim title, but Jose Ramirez and Amir Imam are fighting for the official title, so that’s what I’m looking forward to,” he said. “Their fight’s for the belt, but I feel like my fight’s the real fight for the belt. We are two of the best in the division and we’re fighting for an interim title. But a belt is a belt, it will definitely lead to bigger things, so I can’t wait. Time is ticking down now.”
Slowly, if you ask Prograis.
“That’s the hardest part,” he said. “I’ll quote Mike Tyson: ‘The easiest part about fighting is fighting.’ The hard things are on the business side, the things that I can’t control, like the waiting. In 2017, I fought two fights, a total of three rounds, so that’s the hard part. And the thing is, I’m a gym rat. I’m always in the gym and I’m always training. Even when I’m traveling, I’m still doing something. When you’re always busy, always working and waiting on the fight, it’s definitely the hardest part of boxing. And I’m sure that’s with most fighters.”
So while Prograis waited, it wasn’t like he was idle. In Brazil, he worked with local mixed martial arts fighters at the gym of former UFC star Pedro Rizzo, even teaching a boxing class and doing a little jiu-jitsu, but no, he’s not ready to make that move.
“It’s just not my thing,” said Prograis of a switch to MMA.
The training, swimming and time on the beach was a much needed respite from life back in the States, when, in August, the survivor of Hurricane Katrina had to deal with Hurricane Harvey in his adopted home of Houston.
“I think the storms follow me,” he said. “If I move to Brazil, Brazil might have a big old storm, so I might just stay in Houston and maybe it won’t follow me again.”
Prograis and his family got stranded at his aunt’s house, but when waters from the lake behind the home rose to 15-20 feet and the lights went out, it was time to go.
“It wasn’t fun,” he said, and while you might assume that surviving life and death situations like that will make a fight between the ropes a walk in the park, Prograis admits that boxing is just as much of a trip into the danger zone.
“I wouldn’t say it takes the edge off,” he said. “If you’ve never been in the ring, it’s definitely serious. It’s two different things and you definitely can’t compare them. (In a storm) It’s not about me, it’s about my family. I can handle myself in the ring, but as far as my kids, if the water had come in the house, I have a one-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. Those are the things you have to worry about.”
And those kids are who Prograis fights for. On March 9, he has the opportunity to tell them that their dad is a world champion, and isn’t that worth all the waiting?
“It’s hard to wait when you’re ready,” he laughs. “You’ve got that itch to fight.”
Soon, Regis, soon.