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Regis Prograis: ‘We have a history of bad blood. Maurice Hooker is a fight I’ve wanted for a long time’

Promoters DiBella and Hearn sandwich Prograis and Hooker on Thursday. This moment was fun-filled, fight night won't be so jocular for the rumblers. (Photo by Amanda Wescott)
27
Feb

The forthcoming Regis Prograis and Maurice Hooker scrap, set for April 17 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland on DAZN, is an example of boxing being run right.

 

This faceoff, set to be contested at a catchweight of 143 pounds, didn’t have to happen.

Regis Prograis (24-1, 20 KOs) could have easily grabbed a gimme win against a lower grade foe to get back on the winning track after a narrow loss to Josh Taylor last year.

Regis Prograis at Feb. 27, 2020 press conference ahead of Hooker fight.

Prograis ponders at presser; “Rougarou” told RING he’s looking to choose when to box and when to fight more wisely. (Photo by Amanda Westcott)

He’s rated No. 2 by the WBC and No. 4 by the WBA, so he probably could have played sanctioning body chess to tiptoe up the 140 ladder to another title crack. But no… he’s engaging in a coin-flip fight with Hooker, a Texan who held the WBO’s 140 crown.

Hooker dropped it to Jose Ramirez in July 2017, succumbing to a sixth-round stoppage. In December, he restored some confidence by downing Uriel Perez (TKO1) in Phoenix.

Props to both combat vets for agreeing to take a toughie. (Yes, it may seem strange for us to convey that sentiment, but this is an era where skillful management can result in name fighters fighting two gimmes for every challenging task they accept.)

Hooker (27-1-3 18 KOs; below) seems to be in a Tweener mode, deciding how he feels at 140; being that he is 30 years old, it makes sense that he might be better suited for welterweight. Indeed, he’s rated No. 10 already by the WBC, in case he decides the welter waters are more welcoming.

“I can’t wait to get back in the ring on April 17 and prove that I’m one of the best fighters in the world,” said Prograis, in a release sent out by the promotion. “Maurice Hooker is a former world champion with a good skill set, but I’m very confident that I will be victorious and begin my march towards becoming a two-time world champion this year. We have a history of bad blood and this is a fight that I’ve wanted for a long time. I’m excited for this fight and I’m glad I’m going right back into a fight with a good competitor.

I snagged Regis after the Thursday presser in Texas, where the DAZN gang hangs as they count down to the Saturday night scraps topped by a Mikey Garcia-Jessie Vargas clash.

I told Prograis, straight up, props for taking this tough test, when you could have taken a gimme fight.

“Thank you… Hey, I do want the biggest fights,” said Regis. “I don’t want no wussy fights, I want the big ones. I’m glad they made it happen!”

The presser was chill, he said. He didn’t get into a back-and-forth with Hooker.

Prograis lived in Texas for about 13 years, so he’s very familiar with Mo, a Texas native. They scrapped in the amateurs and on social media, so this tussle should be fan-friendly.

The man who reps Louisiana said he was not as energized as usual from travel and such. So, he didn’t take the bait at the presser when Hooker’s trainer, Brian McIntyre, announced that it would be easy work for Hooker.

Maurice Hooker and Brian McIntyre, his trainer, at Feb. 27 press conference in Texas.

Maurice Hooker and trainer Brian McIntyre seem relaxed and confident as they look over at the Prograis team Thursday. (Photo by Amanda Westcott)

But you might want to check Prograis’ Twitter tonight or tomorrow, when he returns with some Cajun spice.

“The hard fights are supposed to be what the sport is about. It’s a short shelf-life, for a career, so the hard fights, it’s what the people want to see. When you take a loss, sometimes people write you off, more so if you come back and take easy fights,” Prograis told The Ring.

That’s not his way, even though he knows the scene, he knows that many guys choose the reward without taking the risk. And hey, money is a nice thing. Regis loved being able to buy his mom a house. But, he told me, he wants to balance money and legacy.

That’s a fancy term, maybe, for just being able to look back and know you took the hardest challenges, didn’t shrink from the sternest tests. As much as how others perceive you and are aware of you in 10 or 20 years, it might be more about how you see yourself.

“You can take easy ones, but this is the one people want to see,” Prograis said. “I know what you’re saying about money and legacy, both worlds are good, but I have to take tough fights.”

“Regis Prograis came out of the World Boxing Super Series one of the most popular and respected fighters in boxing,” said Prograis’ promoter Lou DiBella (below in Amanda Westcott picture) in the same release.

“This fight against Maurice Hooker is not only one of the most anticipated in boxing but also one of the very best that can be made this year.”

Oh, and not contained in the release was the cayenne Combustible Lou dropped in when talking about the solidity of this clash. “There are seventeen emeffers walking around in weight classes saying they are a world champion,” DiBella said. “And right now, what you got in this fight is two known commodities, two known names, two big names that are perceived to be in the top four of their weight class…Three and four are gonna fight each other, not somebody with a name that I never heard of or can’t write or pronounce and doesn’t really deserve to be in the ring with the champion. These guys are both champions and it’s a yuge, yuge move for the winner, because he’s right back on top, but it’s a big effin step back for the loser.” He then pointed at Prograis. “This guy right here would fight King Effin’ Kong, if you told him where and you gave him the right number. And that’s what this is all about, man, giving the fans what they deserve to see, the best fighting the best.”

Three, three eff bombs, if you were counting…

“I’m excited to face a former world champion,” said Hooker. “In my mind, he is still one of the best out there at 140 pounds which, when I beat him, gives me a chance to show the world I’m also one of the best at this weight. You can bet this fight will get me closer to winning another belt. It’s going to be an exciting match and I’m ready to take him out.”

Tickets will go on sale next week – an announcement on prices and on-sale dates will be made soon – according to the Matchroom peeps. A Luke Campbell vs. Javier Fortuna fight has been signed and sealed, with the vacant WBC lightweight crown for the taking, and it would make sense for that tango to land on the card with Prograis-Hooker.

Also…this social media age is a benefit to news gatherers, sometimes; witness this Tweet from Prograis.

That might give you a decent sense of where his head could be, going into the April 17 test. The posse gets whittled down when you take the first L and that can be annoyingly sobering. And once one gets past the surprise and anger, that brutal truth can morph into a motivating factor.

Judging by posts like this…

… Prograis seems to have taken a smart lesson from the Taylor fight. He isn’t wallowing in sorrow or engaging in self-delusion to minimize the pain. He’s wanting to step up his game and find areas he can improve on. He still thinks he beat Taylor but knows he could have done better. So, working on agility has been a recent focus. “I have agility, I have the stuff, but sometimes I like to fight.” So, a smarter mix, then, is desired. “When to fight, and when to box,” is how he put it.

But clearly he can also lighten it up, have some laughs, not take it all TOO seriously.

Readers, talk to us: Who wins Prograis vs Hooker, and how?

 

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