Regis Prograis made a loud-and-clear statement Saturday night when he stopped tough-as-nails former world champ Jose Zepeda for the vacant WBC 140 lb. title. That statement was that he won’t be ignored anymore.
After three years of being passed over for opportunities and ignored in calculated call-outs by top contenders, the former WBA junior welterweight champ is back on top again and has forced himself into the dialogue.
“I feel like I showed a complete package. Of course,” Prograis said at the post-fight press conference when asked about his future plans. “This thing [WBC belt] is like gold. The last three years, nobody was saying my name. Now I have this, and everybody is going to start calling me out.”
The 33-year-old Prograis is certainly back on top at the right time if his goal is world class, legacy-building competition. The junior welterweight division is top-heavy with talent and it’ll only be getting bigger and better as the young lightweight stars begin to outgrow 135.
Prograis’ first order of business, though, is avenging his lone career loss to one-time four-belt unified world champ Josh Taylor, who took his title via razor-thin majority decision back in 2019.
“Everyone knows that if I had a hit list, Josh Taylor would be on my hit list,” Prograis said. “I think there will be a lot of opportunities out there for me, but we’ll see what they say.
Another former unified champ is also on his radar in the form of Jose Ramirez.
“Jose Ramirez has been ducking me for five years. Now that I got this belt, he wants to fight me.”
Former unified lightweight champ Teofimo Lopez, who recently moved up to junior welter after losing his belts via upset to George Kambosos Jr., will also be in the mix for a lucrative title fight with Prograis, although the new WBC titlist doesn’t think too much of his ability to compete at the higher weight.
“I really think I’ll hurt him,” Prograis said prior to Saturday’s victory. “I really think I can hurt him, stop him. Listen, Teofimo, I thought he had the goods at 135. Of course, with the Kambosos thing we can say Kambosos had the best night of his life and Teofimo had the worst night of his life. We can always say that, but as far 140 goes, his last fight he fought somebody that wasn’t too much and he got hit with a lot of punches. Now, I just don’t see it.”
Other top 140-pounders like Subriel Matias, Arnold Barboza, Jr., Jack Catterall, Gary Antuanne Russell, Montana Love, and Steve Spark (among others) are also there for some challenging potential match-ups.
The next wave of inbound talent, however, may offer the really big fights and big opportunities for Prograis.
24-year-old current unified four-belt lightweight champ Devin Haney won’t be long for the 135 lb. class and will soon enough be doing his thing in Prograis territory. Also on the way up to full-time junior welter status will be other 20-something talents like Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Ryan Garcia, and possibly Shakur Stevenson down the line.
Of course, the boxing business, at the moment, is far from ideal. As a matter of fact, one could say that the business atmosphere right now is downright hostile to big, fan-friendly bouts that require anything resembling cross-company, cross-network, and/or cross-platform cooperation. And many of the potential major fights at 140 will require some significant level of cooperation among rivals.
But there is a path to next-level stardom and legacy for Prograis in that mess of bad boxing business. And for the first time in his career, he’ll be in a position to at least grab at that greatness.