IT’S hard to believe it has been three years since Regis Prograis fought tooth and nail with Josh Taylor in London, England and fell just short, losing a majority decision after 12 rounds. Since then, it’s fair to say a lot has happened in the world, just perhaps not in Prograis’ career.
In fact, in the three years that have followed that Taylor loss Prograis has fought only three times. He fought and beat Juan Heraldez in 2020 (stopping him in three rounds), he fought and beat Ivan Redkach in 2021 (stopping him in six), and he fought and beat Tyrone McKenna in 2022 (stopping him in six). In not one of those fights was Prograis ever unduly worried or threatened, yet neither did he prove much by beating any of those men, all of whom seemed slightly out of their depth in his presence.
Hopefully now, though, with a fight against fellow southpaw Jose Zepeda scheduled for this Saturday (November 26) in Carson, California, Prograis is about to receive the test he has been seriously lacking post-Taylor. Certainly, on paper at least, this (for a WBC super-lightweight belt) is the best and most meaningful assignment the American has had since that time and, in Zepeda, he finally has an opponent who possesses the tools and experience to hopefully ask him a question or two.
A natural super-lightweight, Zepeda has won 35 of his 37 pro fights (27 inside schedule) and lost only twice. His first loss came against Terry Flanagan in 2015, when he was stopped due to a cut in the second round, while the second was on a majority decision against Jose Ramirez, one of the best super-lightweights in the world, in 2019.
Other than that, Zepeda has been without equal. He has solidified his reputation as a leading super-lightweight contender with wins over the likes Jose Pedraza, Ivan Baranchyk, Henry Lundy and Josue Vargas and has shown – particularly against Baranchyk, who dropped Zepeda four times – an ability to bounce back from adversity and prevail.
This will be required, no doubt, against Prograis, someone whose entire modus operandi is to drag opponents into deep water and attempt to drown them there. Against most, too, this approach works, with only Taylor so far able to stick with Prograis and, even better, pip him at the finish line.
Zepeda, it’s true, will not only be the best opponent Prograis has faced since Taylor but likely be boosted by the fact he is fighting at home in California as well. However, be that as it may, one still can’t help wondering how a year out the ring will impact the Californian southpaw (his win against Vargas took place last October). One also wonders whether Prograis has been waiting for a moment like this, and an opponent like this, in order to really reveal what he can do and remind us all of his talents.
Now 33 (both are the same age), Prograis, 27-1 (23), clearly doesn’t have time on his side. He has wasted a fair amount of it, through no fault of his own, and will presumably now look to make up for this against Zepeda on Saturday night. With that in mind, expect a Prograis decision win in a thrilling, close battle.
Supporting Prograis vs. Zepeda in Carson is a seemingly well-matched women’s light-flyweight fight between Nicaragua’s Yokasta Valle, 26-2 (9), and the unbeaten Evelin Nazarena Bermudez, 17-0-1 (6), from Argentina. Valle, the IBF and WBO minimumweight belt-holder, will be moving up in weight to challenge Bermudez, who currently holds the IBF and WBO belts at light-flyweight.
Also on the Carson undercard is a fight between Charles Conwell, 17-0 (13), and Juan Carlos Abreu, 25-6-1 (23), over 10 rounds at super-welterweight, as well as a 10-round heavyweight matchup between excellent Kazakh prospect Bakhodir Jalolov, 11-0 (11), and Curtis Harper 14-8 (9), the man who infamously exited the ring before the first bell of a 2019 bout against Efe Ajagba.