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The Avila Perspective Chap. 19: Regis Prograis, Middleweights and More

David A. Avila



Unique best describes the city of New Orleans.

No other place in the USA resembles the city influenced by French, Spanish and Southern culture blanketed by Catholicism and its Mardi Gras ways.

Out of this exotic old world mixture comes Regis Prograis (pictured), a prizefighter much like his native city has been influenced by the surroundings and episodic moments in life that could be the subject of a motion picture.

Maybe that’s why a group based in Hollywood backs the New Orleans prizefighter.

Prograis (22-0, 19 KOs) steps back into the prize ring and faces England’s Terry Flanagan (33-1, 13 KOs) in the first stage of the World Boxing Super Series tournament in the super lightweight division on Saturday Oct. 27, at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.  It will be streamed via

Fighting out of Manchester, England, former lightweight world champion Flanagan moves up one weight division to test the pride of “N’awlins” as the natives pronounce it, according to my wife whose family still live in the “Big Easy.” If you follow boxing you know the Brits love boxing more than anything but soccer.

Flanagan, 29, lost his title to Maurice Hooker by split decision in Manchester last June. It left a bitter taste that not even the best gumbo could erase. He’s out to prove it was fluky and not an example of his talent. He has wins over B+ fighters and has never been stopped. Can his chin withstand the hurricane forces incoming from Prograis?

Speaking of hurricanes, Prograis remembers well his experience with Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. It was because of that horrific storm that he found himself transplanted to Houston, Texas where he learned the art of boxing.

But first there was football and if you know anything about Texas or Louisiana, then you also comprehend how important football is in the south. Prograis loves football because of the physical impact.

“I love to hit people,” says Prograis with this sincere gleam in his eye. “That’s one of my favorite things in football.”

Boxing was an exercise used by one of his former football squads and it’s where he was told that he packed a punch like a mini-Howitzer.

“All the football players would put on the gloves and we would fight,” said Prograis of his first excursion into boxing. “The coach said you should box. You hit hard.”

Soon he ventured into boxing and has found that his fists fit perfectly into the sport like one of those tailor-made boxing gloves he wears. The instinct to hit pads against pads soon transitioned into hitting another person’s face with his fists.

“I just like to fight. When I fight someone and get hit, I’m like, you can’t hurt me and I’m going to hit you back too and harder,” said Prograis while in Las Vegas recently.

Managed by film director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg, the New Orleans-born prizefighter gets slightly revved up whenever discussing the Mississippi River city known for the Essence Festival, jazz and the Super Dome.

“I’ve been saying for a long time to people in boxing to take boxing to New Orleans,” said Prograis almost breathless.

The interim WBC super lightweight titlist has his eyes on the actual WBC title now held by Northern California’s Jose Carlos Ramirez. But winning the WBSS could lead to the inevitable encounter foreseen by many.

“Jose (Carlos Ramirez) beat (Antonio) Orozco which was a hell of a fight,” said Prograis who watches fights religiously. “If I beat Terry Flanagan I’ll be looked upon more favorably.”

Talking about the pending WBSS tournament raises the pitch in his voice as if slipping a race car into a higher gear.

“My whole goal is to be the legitimate champ at 140 pounds,” Prograis says imagining the moment in his head. “Right now boxing is going up. There are a lot of peaks and valleys, but right now it’s going up and I’m in a perfect division.”

New Orleans has a new champion and Regis Prograis is his name.

Tokyo Drift to Las Vegas

A large number of fans from Japan flew over to Las Vegas to see Ryota Murata defend the WBA middleweight title against barely known Rob Brant last Saturday. It was supposed to be a coming out party for a proposed super match between Murata and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin.

Golovkin’s promoter Tom Loeffler was present at the MGM Park Theater where more than 2,700 fans packed the arena expecting to see their hero in all his splendor. Instead a plucky middleweight who trains in Las Vegas darted in and out firing quick combinations with sporadic power shots to steal the night away.

Every round went by with fans expecting the knockout blow that never came. Though the heavier power shots were landed by Murata the seemingly smaller Brant did land a boat load of punches throughout the 12 round title fight.

When the decision was announced a large collective gasp went through the crowd. Immediately after, the crowd slipped out quicker than Dodger fans hoping to avoid the crush of traffic.

In the dressing room Murata gave no excuses.

Instead of Murata versus Golovkin, it looks like Brant gets the invitation to a gunfight.

HBO: The Last Detail

New York City plays host to one of the final shows of the HBO Boxing era when Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs) meets Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs) for the vacant IBF middleweight title at Madison Square Garden. HBO will televise this Saturday.

It’s the “Miracle Man” versus “the Technician” in a middleweight scrap that is co-promoted by DiBella Entertainment who also promotes Prograis who is competing on the same day in New Orleans 1,100 miles away.

DiBella once worked for HBO.

“I have six fighters fighting in world title fights,” said DiBella adding that aside from Prograis and Derevyanchenko he also promotes Yuandale Evans who is fighting for the WBA super featherweight title against champion Alberto Machado, Ivan Baranchyk competing too, along with Heather Hardy and Shelly Vincent fighting for the vacant WBO featherweight world title.

DiBella hopes to attend the press conference in New Orleans before returning to the New York City card.

“Four world champions in one night,” DiBella said.

He expects Prograis-Flanagan in New Orleans to be high octane.

“It will be a terrific fight as long as it lasts. Regis has a terrific offense. I expect a real entertaining fight as long as it goes,” said DiBella. “Flanagan’s only loss was to Maurice Hooker. I think it will be an exciting fight but I believe Regis will prevail.”

Two other fights taking place in Manhattan are anyone’s guess on who wins.

The female clash between Hardy and Vincent is a rematch of their classic of two years ago. This time it will be on HBO. It’s only the second time a female boxing match is televised on HBO and the last.

“I think if Heather and Shelly fought 10 times they would have a war 10 times,” said DiBella.

In the main event, Jacobs and Derevyanchenko is equally a toss-up encounter.

“They probably sparred 100 rounds with each other,” said DiBella of the two middleweights competing for the vacant world title. “It’s a true 50/50 fight. And I love Jacobs, you saw how close he fought Gennady Golovkin. That can be a very tough fight for Danny Jacobs. No one wants to fight Derevyanchenko.”

It looks to be another middleweight classic.


Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Blake Caparello Looks To Grab WBA Regional Belt This Friday



This Friday night in Australia, light heavyweight contender Blake Caparello returns to action as he faces youngster Reagan Dessaix for the WBA’s Oceania title in the main event of a planned six fight card at The Melbourne Pavilion.
Dessaix currently holds the belt that Caparello held back in 2017, and the 22-year-old is hoping a win on Friday will put him on the international radar. It is where Caparello, who enters this fight as a 32-year-old, has been and hopes to get to again.
Those are the basics of Friday’s main event, the youngster Dessaix making a significant leap in competition level as he looks to get ranked internationally, while the veteran Caparello is hopeful a win will propel him closer to another world title shot.
Caparello laid claim to the IBO’s world title at 175 pounds back in October of 2013 when he won a comfortable unanimous decision over veteran Allan Green. Caparello, who was 17-0-1 at the time of the Green fight, went on to an introductory fight in the United States, and a win there saw him earn an August of 2014 title shot against WBO champion Sergey Kovalev.
Caparello has to feel he was close to a world title as he had the feared Kovalev down in round one before the “Krusher” took him out in round two. Since then, he has fought Isaac Chilemba and Andre Dirrell, extending both ranked veterans the full fight distance. The March of 2018 loss to Chilemba was for the WBC’s world title, and Caparello managed to go 2-0 the rest of the calendar year.
Green, Kovalev, Dirrell and Chilemba. The bottom line is that Dessaix had a solid amateur career in Australia, but there is no one with resumes like the men Caparello has faced when asked to step onto the world scene.
The WBA’s current world champion is Dmitry Bivol (15-0), who is making the fourth defense of his title in March against hard hitting Joe Smith Jr. The veteran Caparello could mount a case for a mandatory shot against either man with a win on Friday, while Dessaix would likely have to keep fighting and winning before earning a shot at a world title.
The co-feature bout is for the Australian title at 154 pounds and sees 31 year old Billy Klimov facing Joel Camilleri. Camilleri is favored as he has had a lot more professional experience than Limov, who turned professional at 29 years old. Strictly regional stuff here.
Both fights have lines at some of the sportsbooks. Check out the numbers as they were at the start of fight week below.
Fri 2/22 – The Melbourne Pavilion – Victoria, Australia
WBA Oceania Title
Light Heavyweight 10 rounds –
Reagan Dessaix(16-1)         +255
Blake Caparello (28-3-1)    -365
Australian Title
Super Welterweight 10 rounds –
Billy Limov (4-0-1)     +200
Joel Camilleri(16-5-1) -280
Check out the link for the live event right here.

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Will Fury’s Deal With ESPN Torpedo The Fights That Fight Fans Want to See?

Arne K. Lang



Fury's deal with ESPN

For the past few weeks, boxing fans have been led to believe that the rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was ever so-close to being a done deal. But in the world of professional boxing where Machiavellian characters seemingly hold all the positions of power, nothing is ever a done deal until it’s finally finalized. Today’s announcement that Tyson Fury has signed with ESPN is the latest case in point. It’s a three-fight deal that will reportedly earn the Gypsy King $80 million if he can successfully hurdle the first two legs.

As Thomas Hauser has noted, what we have in boxing today is something similar to leagues in other sports. There’s the Top Rank/ESPN League, the Matchroom/DAZN League, and the PBC/Showtime/FOX League. We would add that these are intramural leagues. Occasionally there’s cross-pollination, similar to when the Yankees play the Mets in a game that counts in the regular season standings, but basically the boxers in each league compete against each other.

We have no doubt that WBC/WBA/IBF heavyweight ruler Anthony Joshua will eventually fight Wilder and/or Fury, but it now appears that these matches, when they transpire, will have marinated beyond the sell date. The action inside the ring may mirror the Mayweather-Pacquiao dud.

A match between Joshua and Wilder is already somewhat less enticing than it would have been if it had come to fruition last autumn. The odds lengthened in favor of Joshua after Wilder’s raggedy performance against Tyson Fury on Dec. 1 in Los Angeles.

True, the Bronze Bomber almost pulled the fight out of the fire with a thunderous punch but he was out-slicked in most of the rounds and it wasn’t as if he was fighting a bigger version of Pernell Whitaker. Before that fight, casual fans were less tuned-in to Deontay Wilder’s limitations.

It was reported that the Wilder-Fury rematch was headed to Las Vegas or New York, but that Las Vegas fell out of the running when the State Athletic Commission insisted on using Nevada officials. Fury was the one that balked.

In hindsight we should have seen that this was fake news. No Nevada officials were involved in Fury-Wilder I. The judges were from California, Canada, and Great Britain. The California judge voted against Fury, scoring the fight 115-111, a tally for which he was excoriated. The judge from Great Britain, like many ringside reporters, had it draw. The TV crews, especially the crew from Great Britain, left no doubt that Fury should have had his hand raised and the controversy made the hoped-for rematch more alluring.

So who will be Tyson Fury’s next opponent? Speculation immediately centered on Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev.

Pulev, who turns 38 of May 4, sports a 26-1 record. He was slated to fight Anthony Joshua in October of 2017 but suffered a torn biceps in training and was forced to withdraw. In his most recent bout he outpointed Hughie Fury, Tyson’s cousin. He’s currently ranked #1 by the IBF.

On Dec. 8 of last year, Bob Arum announced that he had hammered out a deal to co-promote Pulev. It was subsequently reported that Pulev’s first fight under the Top Rank/ESPN umbrella would be against Finland’s Robert Helenius on March 23 in Los Angeles. Six days ago, the distinguished European fight writer Per Ake Persson told his readers that the fight had fallen out, ostensibly because the parties could not come to terms.

Tyson Fury is the most charismatic white heavyweight to come down the pike since Gerry Cooney and the big galoot is bigger than Cooney ever was as he has avid followers on both sides of the Atlantic and Cooney didn’t have social media to enhance his profile. I have little doubt that ESPN will recoup their investment in him. However, deals in boxing are never consummated with an eye on uplifting the sport – on patching things up with the disaffected – and here’s yet another example.

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Three Punch Combo: Two Recent Upsets Trigger Memories of Forgotten Fights

Matt Andrzejewski



upsets win world titles

THREE PUNCH COMBO — There is just something magical about a longshot overcoming seemingly unsurmountable odds to accomplish a major feat in boxing such as winning a world title.

Earlier this month, undefeated 130-pound champion Alberto Machado defended his title against Andrew Cancio in Indio, CA. Cancio (pictured) was considered a solid pro, but he had been outclassed on the occasions when he stepped up his level of opposition and few expected him to remotely compete with Machado. But Cancio elevated his game and sprung an unthinkable upset, stopping Machado in the fourth round to become a world champion. Cancio’s incredible backstory has since been well documented by several media outlets.

In terms of shock value, Cancio’s upset was mindful of another recent upset, Caleb Traux’s monster upset of James DeGale in December of 2017. Truax traveled to the UK to challenge 168-pound title-holder DeGale.  He was given no shot to win; most doubted that he would be competitive. But Truax overcame the odds and shocked the boxing world winning a majority decision to become a world title-holder. Truax’s story of overcoming incredible odds to dethrone DeGale became the feel good boxing story of 2017.

The underdog stories of Truax and Cancio are still fresh in our minds. But often times, such stories become somewhat forgotten as time passes. In this week’s three punch combo, I will look at three other incredible underdog stories that all occurred in 1997. They were all equally as heartwarming as those of Truax and Cancio.

Keith Mullings vs. Terry Norris, 12/06/1997

In 1997, 154-pound champion Terry Norris left his promoter Don King to sign with Top Rank with the express purpose of securing a big money fight against Oscar De La Hoya. After winning two non-title fights under the Top Rank banner against low level opponents, Norris was placed on the same pay-per-view card as De La Hoya who would be defending his WBC world welterweight title against Wilfredo Rivera. Top Rank was planting the seeds for a De La Hoya-Norris showdown the following year. Not wanting to take any chances, they selected a seemingly safe opponent for Norris in Keith Mullings.

Mullings entered with a record of 14-4-1. He had one win in his last six fights. However, Mullings was coming off a controversial split decision loss to another 154-pound champion in Raul Marquez three months earlier in a fight many believed Mullings deserved to win. The performance against Marquez gave Mullings credibility but his limited skills did not leave many to believe that he could compete with an elite fighter like Norris.

For the first seven rounds, the script seemed to be going according to plan. Norris boxed effectively using his left jab to control range and landing combinations behind that punch. He was seemingly in total control of the fight.

In round eight, Norris’s movement slowed and Mullings began to land on a more stationary target. Although not known as a puncher, he dropped Norris with a hard right hand. Norris survived the round but Mullings came out aggressive to start round nine. After reigning punch after punch on Norris in the first minute of the round, referee Tony Perez stepped in to save Norris from more punishment.

Mullings would make one successful defense of his title three months later, stopping Davide Ciarlante in round five, but that would be the last win of his career. He would lose his title in his next outing to Javier Castillejo and then lose three more times before hanging up the gloves for good in 2001.

Mauricio Pastrana vs. Michael Carbajal, 01/18/1997

Entering 1997, 108-pound champion Michael Carbajal had only two losses on his resume in 46 professional fights. Both losses had come in 1994 to the great Humberto Gonzalez. One was by majority decision and one by split decision. Carbajal had won 12 fights in a row following the second defeat to Gonzalez and was still considered to be in the prime of his Hall of Fame career as he entered a title defense against unknown Mauricio Pastrana on January 18th, 1997.

Pastrana had an undefeated record of 15-0 with 13 of those wins coming by knockout. But he had fought nobody of note, feasting on inferior competition in his native Columbia. He was given literally no shot by most in boxing to even be competitive with the much more experienced and seemingly more skilled Carbajal. As a matter of fact, so little was thought of Pastrana that during the beginning of the fight a promo was run hyping Carbajal’s next scheduled title defense in March.

The first two rounds were largely feeling-out type rounds. In round three, Pastrana announced his presence, shaking Carbajal with a hard right hand. From there, Pastrana upped his output using an effective well-timed stinging left jab to set up his combinations. He outworked Carbajal and landed the cleaner punches as the fight progressed. Carbajal certainly had his moments in what became a surprisingly exciting fight but in the end the judges preferred the activity and cleaner punching of Pastrana who would win a split decision.

Pastrana made two successful defenses against overmatched foes before losing his belt on the scales before a scheduled title defense in August of 1998. In his next fight, he would capture an interim title belt in the flyweight division but that would be his last success in any major title fight. He never was able to replicate the performance he had against Carbajal. Along the way, Pastrana suffered defeats to some big names including Rafael Marquez, Celestino Caballero, Jhonny Gonzalez and Gary Russell Jr. Following a knockout loss to Mikey Garcia in 2012, Pastrana retired with a final professional record of 35-17-2.

Uriah Grant vs. Adolpho Washington, 06/21/1997

In his second pro fight, Uriah Grant was fed to debuting 1984 Olympic Heavyweight Gold Medalist Henry Tillman and was knocked out in the second round. Three fights later, Grant was selected as an opponent for prospect Ricky Womack and dropped a six round decision. It appeared that Grant’s career was ticketed to being that of a journeyman.

Grant’s career would bounce up and down following the Womack loss. With a lack of depth in the cruiserweight division, Grant did get opportunities at bigger fights and even world title bouts but continued to fall short when he stepped up in class. The journeyman tag seemed appropriate as he entered his 13th year as a pro in 1997 with a pedestrian record of 25-12.

In August of 1996, Adolpho Washington traveled to Spain and scored a unanimous decision victory over the previously undefeated Torsten May to win a cruiserweight title. The win moved Washington’s record to 26-3-2. After a bit of a layoff, Washington settled on a title defense against Grant to help shake off the rust.

Stuffed deep on a Don King promoted card in Florida, the fight was thought to be a mismatch with no US television interested and barely anyone in attendance. But in an absolute shocker, Grant defeated Washington by split decision. The unheralded cruiserweight went from journeyman to world champion overnight.

Unfortunately for Grant, his championship reign would be short. Five months later in his first title defense, he was out-boxed by Imamu Mayfield losing a unanimous decision.

Grant would not fight for a major title again, but in 2000 he would gain a little more notoriety when he defeated a faded Thomas Hearns. Four years after defeating Hearns and following a string of losses, Uriah Grant retired with a final record of 30-21.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos / Golden Boy Promotions

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