Regis Prograis in full command of career going into Danielito Zorrilla fight in New Orleans
Regis Prograis is not overlooking Danielito Zorrilla.
While there is debate as to who the top fighter is at 140 pounds, Prograis, who is ranked No. 2 by The Ring, knows a loss to Zorrilla will remove him from that list of top fighters. Not to mention Prograis does not want to suffer a defeat in his hometown.
Prograis will defend his WBC world junior welterweight title against Zorrilla Saturday night at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 12-round bout will stream live on DAZN (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
The 34-year-old (28-1, 24 knockouts) won the WBC world title in his last bout on November 26, knocking out Jose Zepeda in the 11th round. Prograis admits the southpaw Zepeda was a tough challenge, but was able to utilize his ring savviness and accurate punches to break Zepeda down.
“I kept adjusting,” Prograis told The Ring over the phone Wednesday afternoon. “That was one of the hardest camps of my career because I wanted that (world title) belt so bad. I loved that fight.
“He was really good. He hit hard. I was able to keep adjusting based on what he kept doing. I kept doing the opposite from what he was doing. I was able to wear him down and get that knockout win.”
Prograis was originally scheduled to face unbeaten Liam Paro of Australia, but Paro withdrew from the fight after suffering an injury about four weeks ago.
Zorrilla (17-1, 13 KOs, who resides in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, accepted the fight about three weeks ago. The 29-year-old last fought on March 18 in a stay-busy fight on March 18, stopping journeyman Aristides Quintero in the first round. The win over Quintero took place about eight months after suffering the only defeat as a pro at the hands of Arnold Barboza, Jr.
While admitting he did watch and story film on Zorrilla, Prograis admitted not being too familiar with him and finalized it was best to figure him out in the ring on Saturday.
“I honestly don’t know a lot about him,” said Prograis, who is trained by Bobby Benton. “I did watch video of him, but I can’t tell how fast he is, how hard he hits, or how durable he is. I don’t know. You tend to underestimate your opponent sometimes based on what you see. You make the fight harder than you need it to be. We had hard sparring for this fight and I’m going to go in there and outbox and break him down.”
The Zorrilla fight will mark a homecoming for Prograis. His last fight in New Orleans took place in October 2018, defeating Terry Flanagan by unanimous decision. Hurricane Katrina forced him and thousands of others to relocate to Houston, where Prograis currently resides.
Moving from New Orleans to Houston and then having to deal with Hurricane Harvey that hit Southeastern Texas, including Houston, in 2017 was a stressful time. Prograis managed to pull through two catastrophic natural disasters with his family, and further cemented a mindset that few people have.
“My mindset and my upbringing gave me that mindset. I’ve been through a lot. I was able to go through two combined storms and wind up becoming a two-time world champion. My mindset is strong. I read a lot. I have a library, and in a 10-year span, I’ve read about 200 books.”
Prograis has recently reached out to the community, and to promote the Zorrilla fight, by organizing a run through the city. Boxing fans or New Orleans residents meet Prograis at a rallying point and run for approximately three miles. Dozens participate in a handful of events that Prograis has organized, including the last one on
“This is a way to show love to my people,” said Prograis. “I do like to work out by myself. Even in the gym, there’s times where I train myself. Before my previous fight, we trained here and did a run. Same thing for this fight where I invited people to do a run with me. I did it again the other day. It’s far from fight night and not a distraction from the media and cameras. I was inspired by Muhammad Ali doing this for the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight in Africa. Kids and people ran alongside him.”
Prograis declared himself a promotional free agent in a social media post on April 6. He fielded offers from different promotional outlets, including Matchroom Boxing and Top Rank, before signing a promotional three-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing.
What was unusual about the signing with Matchroom Boxing was Prograis negotiated the deal without a manager. He also sat through negotiations with Top Rank without a manager.
“I had a manager at the time that negotiated the Zepeda fight. I realized then that I could do this by myself. I don’t want people to get the wrong impression. I want to make it clear I don’t need a manager right now. I just felt it was in my best interests to negotiate this deal without a manager. There’s times when managers cut backroom deals with a promoter.
“I made the decision to go with Matchroom by myself. I went to Vegas and met with Bob Arum and Top Rank. A lot of people tried to have me go to Top Rank. Ultimately, it was my decision to go with Eddie and Matchroom. I didn’t have anyone in my ear. I made that decision on my own.”
Prograis is not looking ahead past the Zorrilla fight. He has learned from his past, including the only loss of his career at the hands of Josh Taylor in October 2019.
This past Saturday, Taylor lost the Ring Magazine junior welterweight championship and the WBO world junior welterweight title to Teofimo Lopez, who outboxed Taylor on his way to a unanimous decision victory. A fight against Taylor would have a different outcome, according to Prograis, but that depends if Prograis moves up to welterweight, as Taylor announced his move up to 147 pounds.
“It’s a different outcome if I fight Taylor again. I’d probably stop him. What happened in the first fight was that he got in my head. I was not thinking about winning, as much as I wanted to hurt Taylor. I shouldn’t have done that. It was a stupid idea on my part, but you live and learn. Also, I was No. 1 in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) tournament. I was the No. 1 seed. I went to the U.K. I thought the only options were to fight in either Manchester, which is close to Scotland (where Taylor is from), or London (where the fight ended up taking place). Looking back, we should have looked at having the fight stateside.”
Even as Lopez is now the Ring Magazine and lineal champion at 140 pounds, Prograis does not mince words that he is the top fighter in the junior welterweight division.
Prograis is eager to prove he is the top fighter in the division.
“For sure, I am. Teo did a great job getting the win. He clearly beat ‘The Man.’ Taylor has slipped as a fighter. He even slipped in the (Jose) Ramirez fight.
“I am the best (fighter). I want to prove it. I want to prove I’m No. 1 at 140 pounds.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]