In October 2019, Regis Prograis went to war with Josh Taylor and nearly left London as a two-belt world champion and winner of the World Boxing Super Series super lightweight tournament. Instead, Taylor won a narrow majority decision and went on to become undisputed champion two fights later. Prograis, meanwhile, has struggled to find his way back to big fights worthy of his talents. That changes Saturday night when Prograis faces Jose Zepeda for the vacant WBC title (PPV, 9 p.m. ET).
After starting his career 22-0, Prograis entered the World Boxing Super Series and won two fights, capturing the WBA title with his win over Kiryl Relikh in the tournament semifinals before the loss to Taylor in the finals.
The tournament established Prograis as a force in the division and a fighter with a marketable style and personality. But his decision to sign with upstart promotion Probellum following the loss left Prograis on the outside looking in when it came to getting back to the big stage.
Prograis has fought and won three times since the loss to Taylor, the biggest of those fights against Ivan Redkach on the April 2021 undercard of Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren. That fight had a bizarre finish as Prograis landed a clear shot to Redkach’s ribs only for Redkach to collapse to the canvas, inexplicably grasping at his groin and claiming the punch — which landed to his side — was a low blow. The referee bought Redkach’s story and the fight was stopped, with Redkach awarded a technical decision victory. That decision also went against the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission rules, which state that a fighter who cannot continue after an accidental low blow will be declared the loser by technical knockout. The commission would eventually change the result to a TKO.
With opportunities limited by other promoters not wanting to risk their fighters against a talent outside of their control and with no championship on the line, Prograis was forced to wait until an opportunity presented itself, which happened when Jose Ramirez withdrew from his planned rematch with Zepeda for the WBC belt that was vacated by Taylor, leaving the WBC to order a fight between Zepeda and Prograis.
Since a 2019 loss in his first fight with Ramirez, Zepeda has rattled off five straight victories. An action-first fighter, Zepeda took part in one of the best fights in recent years when he faced Ivan Baranchyk in October 2020.
The fight between Zepeda and Baranchyk saw eight total knockdowns, four for each fighter. Zepeda then ended things with a crushing knockout in the fifth round.
The win over Baranchyk gave Zepeda a secondary WBC title, which he defended twice to hold his status as the next man up for a WBC world title shot.
On Saturday, the waiting for a world title fight is over for both men and fans are likely in for a great fight between two men whose styles almost guarantee top-tier action.
Prograis vs. Zepeda fight card, odds
|Regis Prograis -410||Jose Zepeda +320||Vacant WBC super lightweight title|
|Yokasta Valle -200||Evelin Nazarena Bermudez (c) +170||IBF, WBO light flyweight titles|
|Charles Conwell -2500||Juan Carlos Abreu +1200||Super welterweight|
|Bakhodir Jalolov -4000||Curtis Harper +1500||Heavyweight|
This is a battle of southpaws who thrive when they have their counterpunching working. Zepeda will enter with the reach advantage and will likely try to use his jab to keep Prograis from closing distance. The problem for Zepeda is that Prograis is a better fighter with a deeper bag of tricks, more speed, better defense and a better chin.
When opponents are able to get in-range against Zepeda, he tends to struggle defensively. Prograis is technically gifted enough to be able to get past the jab and quick enough to not only land counters but also to avoid the counters that Zepeda tends to thrive on. The fight will be an entertaining one from the opening bell, but Prograis’ ability to shift gears and offer different problems for Zepeda to solve will be enough for him to carry most rounds. Pick: Prograis via UD