Monday, October 02, 2023  |


A surly Regis Prograis F-bombs future foes going into homecoming title defense

Regis Prograis dropped a few F-bombs during the final press conference for his WBC 140-pound title defense against Danielito Zorrilla on Saturday, June 17, at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Fighters Network

Matchroom’s promise to showcase him back in his home city of New Orleans had contributed so much to Regis Prograis agreeing to promotional terms with them over Top Rank, and yet two days before he is due to fight Danielito Zorrilla the homecoming he is dreaming of is at risk of falling flat.

That the 29-year-old Zorrilla became his opponent with a month’s notice would not have helped. Nor would have Australia’s Liam Paro, the challenger for Prograis’ WBC 140-pound title until an Achilles injury forced his withdrawal, being his opponent when Saturday’s date at the regrettably named Smoothie King Center was announced.

Eddie Hearn, the promoter at pains to tell the world that Prograis is the world’s leading junior welterweight – Hearn also promotes Jack Catterall, who is widely considered to have beaten Josh Taylor before Teofimo Lopez did so impressively last weekend – has been told that they can expect a crowd in the region of 8,000 on Saturday but believes that 6,000 is more likely.

He is also, as is consistent with Matchroom’s approach of, where possible, consistently promoting their leading fighters in their home cities, preparing to bring Prograis back to The Big Easy in the autumn when, if as expected Prograis defeats Zorrilla, Catterall could be opposite him in the ring.

“Someone said to me earlier, was it a risk to bring Regis here?” Hearn told the Ring Magazine. “How is it a risk? When we did Leigh Wood against [Mauricio] Lara in Manchester it did 6,000 tickets. If that was in [Wood’s home city of] Nottingham it’d have done 9,000 like that. It’s obvious.

Promoter Eddie Hearn had big plans for WBC 140-pound titleholder Regis Prograis. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

“It’s a logical thing. Josh Warrington boxing in Leeds – we were doing 2,500, 3,000 when he started. I was thinking, “Good hardcore support,” then all of a sudden it was 9,000. [Carl] Frampton – he was the same. It’s the same here.

“We signed Jack Catterall to deliver him a world-title fight. We signed Regis Prograis to do the Catterall fight [at some point]. Everything’s linked. Regis is going to want the biggest fights. Of which Jack Catterall’s one – he’s definitely not the biggest. But for us and DAZN it would make sense to make that fight next.

“But [Devin] Haney’s out there – wants to look at the fight. Obviously, Ryan Garcia would be a massive fight as well. You’ve got Richardson Higgins-Montana Love [in Detroit on July 15] – the winner of that’s going to want the fight. So, he’s got four or five options. But I would like to deliver the fight for Jack as well – definitely in the U.S.”

Little over an hour earlier at the final press conference for Saturday’s fight, Prograis – without being prompted to and speaking wearily, instead of in anger – had said: “All the reporters, stop asking me about all these other fighters. F__k Haney. F__k Teo [Lopez]. F__k Josh Taylor. F__k Adrien Broner. Right now, it’s about me, and this is my show, and Saturday night, [Zorrilla] gonna get his ass whooped.”

Regis Prograis and Danielito Zorrilla pose after the final press conference for their WBC 140-pound title bout on Saturday, June 17, in New Orleans. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

Zorrilla may have recognized the names his opponent referenced but, owing to his inability to speak English – which in turn will also have done little to help sell tickets – little else. Prograis, perhaps inevitably, had been asked about Taylor-Lopez on Wednesday when he conducted a handful of interviews around some filming being done with DAZN, no doubt contributing to his frustration and the sense that his homecoming fight – he last fought in New Orleans when defeating Terry Flanagan in 2018 – is being overlooked.

“Teo just did his thing, man,” the 34 year old then said. “Teo really did his thing – he shined out. He made Josh Taylor look basic. It really surprised me. I’m happy for him. I was actually going for Taylor, because if Taylor would’ve kept the belt me and him would be even bigger, but now it makes things even spicier. He really impressed me. Taylor was the former undisputed [champion], and Teo made him look basic; he made him look like a regular fighter.

“I’m the best in the division, but on paper, you can say Teo is up there. But I still feel like I’m better than Teo, no matter what.”

In so many respects Lopez beating Taylor has also done little to help. Even if Taylor working with Top Rank would make matching him with Prograis problematic, Hearn, however insincerely, could have spoken of plans to make a rematch between the division’s best.

Through insisting he is retired Lopez has, at least temporarily, instead removed himself and Taylor from what had previously been the most appealing landscape in a division largely neglected since the days of Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton. Prograis, in so many ways still recovering from the defeat by Taylor in 2019 that has largely defined both of their careers, is therefore through little fault of his own at risk of again being adrift.

“I’m not [Muhammad] Ali I can’t predict the rounds but I’m gonna bust his ass,” he said, sat alongside his oblivious-yet-brooding Puerto Rican opponent with the menacingly intense stare. “That’s all I’m gonna say.”

Not competing with the fixture list of the New Orleans Pelicans should have enhanced interest in Prograis from residents of the home city he remains so proud of, and yet days before he fight he felt compelled to remind them of the value-for-money alternative that exists during basketball’s off-season.

“The best fighter in the division,” he continued. “I’m going to go out there and have fun. I’m thankful for Matchroom; thankful for Eddie for seeing the dream; seeing the vision.

“If y’all don’t know they have tickets as low as $20. People don’t know they have tickets as low as $20. Everybody thinks it’s going to be real expensive but they do have tickets as low as $20.

“I can’t wait.”