'Cream will rise to the top': Regis Prograis interview
Undefeated super lightweight contender Regis Prograis is aiming to become New Orleans' first world boxing champion since the 1960s. Cameron Gillon spoke to the 29-year-old ahead of Friday's WBC interim title clash with Julius Indongo...
Since turning professional in April 2014, Regis Prograis has won all 20 of his fights, with 17 victories coming by way of knockout.
The New Orleans, Louisiana-born pugilist was originally scheduled to fight Viktor Postol (29-1, 12 KOs) on Friday night, only for the Ukrainian former WBC titleholder to pull out after suffering a fractured left thumb. Postol was, however, quickly replaced by former WBA/IBF unified champion Julius Indongo, and Prograis vs Indongo will now headline the Showtime-televised card at the Deadwood Mountain Grand in Deadwood, South Dakota.
''I felt like [Viktor] Postol was going to pull out of our fight before it even happened,'' Prograis told Boxing Monthly from his training camp. ''I didn’t think he really wanted the fight with me. There was too much risk and not enough reward for him. I think Postol will wait for me to become champion before looking at a fight again with me.''
Although Prograis, who is now based in Houston, has been in desperate need of a big fight since he stopped Joel Diaz Jr (23-1, 19 KOs) on Showtime back in June 2017 his clash with Indongo has been overlooked for full world championship status by the WBC. Instead, the full title will be contested the following week between Amir Imam and undefeated Jose Carlos Ramirez.
Prograis said: "I do feel me and Julius Indongo should be for the full world title. Amir Iman got knocked out by Adrian Granados and since then he has fought two nobodies, and is still ranked number one. Jose Ramirez has a padded record and is ranked behind me, but they’re fighting for the full title. It’s ok. I’ll fight either one of them.
"At the end of the day the cream will rise to the top. I feel like I should be fighting for the full title now but, like I said, it’s ok. I’m not bothered by it. It is what it is. I’ll probably go to that fight. It’s the week after mine.''
Indongo, 35, who represented Namibia at lightweight in the 2008 Olympics, has fought in a higher class than Prograis; the sole loss in his professional career came in his last outing against arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet in Terence Crawford, a contest in which all four major sanctioning body belts were on the line. Indongo first became IBF world champion after sensationally knocking out Eduard Troyanovsky in December 2016 and then went on to beat Scotland's Ricky Burns in April 2017 to add the WBA title to his collection before falling short in a third-round knockout loss to Crawford in August.
''I think Indongo is a better opponent than Postol because he’s a former two-time world champion," Prograis argued. "I’m definitely happy that I’m getting a big name. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity and an opponent like this for a while. Of course, I watched the fight when he fought Terence Crawford, but that fight didn’t show much.
"I haven't seen much. I usually leave that up to my team to study my opponents. The training hasn't changed much. I've only changed my sparring partners to southpaw. Everything is the same. I am still in Houston training. I have just changed up my sparring partners."
Prograis hasn't fought in eight months, the longest period of inactivity of his career. He had two fights in the first half of 2017, and then missed out the remainder of the year. However he is hoping to resume fighting regularly starting this weekend.
''Yeah the inactivity has been frustrating," he admitted. "I only fought three rounds last year, but I’m always training and sparring so it shouldn’t be that bad. The only prediction I have for the fight is that I’ll do my thing and shine."
An opportunity to make history is something that clearly motivates Prograis. It's been almost 55 years since New Orleans crowned a world boxing champion, when Willie Pastrano defeated Harold Johnson on a 15-round points decision to win the WBC/WBA and lineal light-heavyweight titles. Pastrano was under the guidance of Angelo Dundee, famously known for being Muhammad Ali's trainer, and held on to the title until defeated by Jose Torres in 1965.
Prograis now lives in Houston after Hurricane Katrina struck his home city in August 2005 and wiped out his family home. His family later decided to return to Louisiana, but Prograis opted to remain in Houston and continue his boxing career there. However, he speaks affectionately of the 'Big Easy'.
''It would be a big deal for me and the city of New Orleans to bring a championship back there," he said. "I feel like boxing can and should be big in New Orleans, just like the Saints and the Pelicans [the city's American football and basketball teams respectively].
"The city has a few good fighters that can develop into good professionals. I have the opportunity to open up the market and bring boxing back, and that’s what I’m striving for. So I’m not only fighting for myself, but for the city of New Orleans also and the young fighters following in my footsteps.''