Jose Zepeda and Regis Prograis eagerly await confirmation on a date for their vacant WBC junior welterweight title fight.
Joining them in the holding pattern is the sanctioning body who ordered the fight and is now demanding answers on when it will take place.
MarvNation Promotions is officially on the clock to comply with all terms of the purse bid the company won to secure the rights to Zepeda-Prograis. The Southern California-based outfit submitted a whopping $2,400,000 during an August 30 purse bid hearing, 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 sanctioning body has now called upon the promoter to deliver the most important—written confirmation on when and where the fight will take place.
“They did comply with the purse bid, they sent the deposit,” WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman confirmed in a recent interview with FightHype.com. “However, they are pending to send the contracts with the date and site of the fight.
“We are in communication with them to help them understand that if they cannot promote the fight, to simply withdraw. Otherwise, there are strong penalties.”
Purse bid terms call for three separate stages of confirming the fight date and location, all within a 21-day period. Per WBC rules, both fighters must be contacted by the promoter within seven days of the purse bid hearing. The WBC is required to be notified by the promoter within fifteen days of the ceremony of the date and site for the event.
The 15-day deadline—Wednesday, September 14—came and went without any confirmed update. The WBC has since contacted MarvNation with a reminder of what’s at stake, and that a final deadline awaits—the 21-day mark at which point the WBC must be in possession of signed contracts from both fighters, provided by the promoter.
That leaves MarvNation a final deadline of September 20 to avoid defaulting on the purse bid.
“They won this fight. It’s been a long time with no (WBC title) fight. It’s time to get going,” noted Sulaiman. “It is in danger. We need to have a site and date, a location and the contract signed.
“If not, the fight will go to TGB who was the second-place bidder.”
MarvNation was founded by Marvin Rodriguez, who got into the sport to promoter his two sons. His company began as a concert promotional outfit before only recently turning to boxing on a regular basis. They are mostly known for promoting club shows in the Southern California region as well as Mexico and Costa Rica. The latter boasts by far their biggest star client, unified IBF/WBO strawweight tilist Yokasta Valle (26-2, 9KOs).
There is understandably heavy skepticism that the company can carry a fight of this magnitude and at such a lofty price tag. The only update provided by the promoter was its plans to stage the event in November, either in Las Vegas or Atlatnic City and likely on an independent pay-per-view.
“They are hard working,” acknowledged Sulaiman. “They complied with a huge deposit. We are trying to help them get in the right direction.”
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 (35-2, 27KOs). 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 which 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.
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. He 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