Jose Zepeda and Regis Prograis will move forward with their vacant WBC junior welterweight title fight.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that MarvNation Promotions has set aside a date of November 26 for the title fight claimed by the Southern California-based outfit during a recent purse bid hearing. An exact venue was not established as this goes to publish, though a strong possibility is for the fight to land at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The fight is expected to headline an independent but moderately priced Pay-Per-View event.
Prograis took to his Instagram channel to confirm that he was officially on board with all terms for the fight, which was the last hurdle in finalizing the attractive matchup.
The vacant title fight was ordered by the WBC on July 31, and then sent to a purse bid hearing on August 30. MarvNation—founded and headed by Marvin Rodriguez—emerged as the surprise winner, posting a whopping $2,400,000 to far outpace the rest of the field. Their bid was nearly double that of TGB Promotions’ $1,200,600 offer as the next highest bidder.
As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the WBC received the required ten-percent deposit right at the ten-day deadline, with that money placed in escrow. The $240,000 amount will be at stake as a win bonus per WBC purse bid rules. The remaining 90 percent will be split between Zepeda and Prograis, who are both guaranteed to clear more than $1,000,000 for the title fight.
There was public concern expressed by WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman over the process not moving along at their desired pace. It fueled speculation that MarvNation—generally a club promoter save for its biggest fighter, unified IBF/WBO strawweight titlist Yokasta Valle—was perhaps in over its head and unable to handle the expensive price tag.
However, significant progress was made immediately thereafter, with Zepeda (35-2, 27KOs) on board with the fight all along and Prograis’ side ironing out final details to move forward with the event.
The belt became vacant on July 1, when Scotland’s Josh Taylor (19-0, 13KOs) relinquished the crown in lieu of a mandatory title defense against California’s Zepeda. Taylor fully unified the division following a 12-round win over Ramirez in their undisputed championship last May 22 in Las Vegas but has fought just once since then—a disputed split decision win over Jack Catterall on February 26 in Glasgow.
Taylor is now down to just the WBO title, having vacated the WBA, WBC and IBF belts, in that order.
The WBC vacancy came after dragging out talks with Zepeda and calling for multiple purse bid delays. The stall tactics left Zepeda waiting nearly three months before having to enter a fresh round of talks with the next highest available contender.
Zepeda earned his way back to the mandatory challenger position during his current six-fight unbeaten streak. His ascension to the top contender spot came after surviving four knockdowns to score four of his own in a sixth-round knockout of Ivan Baranchyk in October 2020, prevailing in the universal pick for 2020 Fight of the Year.
Two more wins have followed, including a first-round knockout of Josue Vargas last October 30 in New York City and a stay-busy affair in March before heading into talks with Taylor. It proved to be a giant waste of time for all involved, as Taylor ultimately gave up the belt, the lengthy wait even angering the WBC.
Zepeda was originally due to enter talks with former WBC/WBO titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez, whose own desire to challenge for a second title reign was affected by the delay in the belt becoming available.
Ramirez faced and defeated former two-division titlist Jose Pedraza in March, taking the fight with the intention of next challenging for the title ahead of his already scheduled October wedding. The timing of the order conflicted with his out-of-ring calendar, with Ramirez agreeing to stand down and face the winner of the next ordered vacant title fight.
Prograis (27-1, 23KOs) was the number-three contender, reaching that point after scoring a sixth-round knockout of Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna in March. The former WBA titlist from the greater Houston area by way of New Orleans was also in the hunt for the vacant WBA title, only to lose out on the opportunity as Dominican Republic’s Puello (20-0, 10KOs) claimed the belt in an August 20 points win over Batyr Akhmedov.
All was not lost for Prograis, who for months was by far the best junior welterweight in the world to not be in the title mix. That changed with Ramirez’s graceful exit from the ordered WBC fight, as the 33-year-old southpaw has a chance to become a two-time titlist.
Prograis previously held the WBA title, claiming the belt in a sixth-round knockout of Kiryl Relilkh in April 2019 during the semifinal round of the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament. Prograis lost the belt to Taylor via majority decision in their October 2019 WBSS final in London, having since won three straight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox