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The Growing Legend of Regis Prograis

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Prograis

Call him Rougarou.

There are many different origin stories surrounding the creature called the Rougarou, and these mythic tales are as diverse as the many king cake traditions that exist throughout New Orleans and the rest of the French-settled communities around the world.

To some, Rougarou is a legendary creature who patrols the New Orleans city limits at night devouring whoever comes in his path. Some people associate it with a kind of werewolf. To others, it is more like a vampire but with the head of an animal.

But to Regis Prograis, it’s something as simple as a swamp monster, and perhaps the mystery of the creature under that connotation makes the Rougarou the scariest thing of all. It has no origin. It has no form. All it does is wreck things.

It’s no wonder a fighter such a Prograis would choose such a thing as his moniker. Prograis doesn’t care if you know very much about him at all. All he does is wreck things and he knows that the story of boxing’s Rougarou, the swamp monster from New Orleans who fights out of Houston, will someday be added to the lore.

Prograis met with the media on Thursday, April 11, at the Main Street Boxing & Muay Thai Gym in Houston to talk about his upcoming world title fight against Kiryl Relikh. It’s one of the semi-final bouts of the 140-pound World Boxing Super Series tournament, where Prograis is favored by oddsmakers to seize Relikh’s WBA title before moving on to the finals against either IBF champion Ivan Baranchyk or Scottish phenom Josh Taylor.

“I can’t wait to go out there and get my title,” said an excited Prograis about competing in his first world title fight against Relikh on Saturday, April 27, at the Cajun Dome in Lafayette, Lousiana. “That’s why I signed up. It’s the best people fighting the best.”

Prograis only transforms into his swamp monster alter-ego on fight night. Outside of the ring, he’s a mixture of quiet confidence and aggressive introspection. He pays serious attention to his craft but he’s also polite and thoughtful.

And while many fighters in the sport are hallmarks of discipline, souls who have crawled up out of life’s fractured gutters into something more akin to the light of an ordered purpose, there’s something about Prograis that just seems above even all that.

Bobby Benton, the fighter’s trainer, said Prograis is the kind who immediately impresses people, and it was true that nothing happened on Thursday to discredit him.

“My first memory of him was that he was out at the park at like five o’clock in the morning running,” said Benton. “He was only 16 years old back then, and I told his manager right then that this kid was going to do something special.”

Benton has trained Prograis, who was uprooted by Hurricane Katrina, for around five years now. Benton said Prograis is an aggressive worker, one who consistently exceeds all expectations. Wielding a single-minded approach to becoming the best fighter he can be, Benton said he’s seen Prograis constantly improve himself over the course of their time together and the fighter echoes the same.

“I’ve been studying the lives of great fighters for years,” said Prograis. “Not only inside the ring, but out. I study their lives so I can learn from what they did right and what they did wrong. Why would I want to go through something if I don’t have to?”

The result has been marvelous. Prograis is a true rarity in boxing, a pressure-fighting southpaw who slips and parries punches while moving forward in a patiently destructive way that might even make the great Roberto Duran feel proud.

And while Prograis seems destined to become a world champion, he’s unabashedly confident his career will turn out to be more. In fact, when asked who his dream fight would be out of any fighter in the world today, he did not hesitate to name the toughest in the sport, Terence Crawford.

“I want to compete. There’s a lot of fighters out there who don’t want to risk their winning records, but for me, I want to risk that. I want to compete with the best. It’s for my legacy.”

While there were not a hoard of media watching his every move on this day, Prograis is almost certain to be experiencing that kind of thing soon. After all, the more a fighter wins and the brighter the lights are when they do, it tends to attract throngs of sudden well-wishers and reporter-types hoping to break into an ever competitive news cycle.

The lives of professional boxers are amazingly unique in this way. Fighters are basically nobodies for the majority of their careers and then suddenly they become listed among the biggest celebrities on the planet.

Prograis was unmoved by the lack of attention he received on Thursday where a small Louisiana newspaper sent only one photographer and a local Houston television station sent a single cameraman to go along with three or so more people representing various online boxing media outlets.

To be blunt, I’ve seen fighters in such circumstances visibly upset they’re not getting the attention they either crave or think they deserve, but to Prograis it didn’t matter who was there or how many. He seems the type who is as authentic with one as he is with a thousand.

“What kind of kid is out there that early at five in the morning before school?” asked Benton with amazement in his eyes all these years later after his first encounter with Prograis.

While we didn’t say it, both of us were probably thinking the same thing. The kind who isn’t promotional hyperbole. The kind who wins world championships. The kind who simply is the truth.

A man in the midst of becoming a legend. Prograis, the Rougarou.

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Alexis Rocha KOs Brave but Overmatched George Ashie on DAZN.

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Golden Boy Promotions’ potted their first offering of 2023 at the recently opened YouTube Theater, a 6,000-seat venue situated inside the stadium built to house LA’s two NFL franchises. The main event was a scheduled 12-round welterweight match between Alexis Rocha, a southpaw from nearby Santa Ana and George Ashie, a 38-year-old Ghanaian making his U.S. debut. Ashie was a late substitute for Anthony Young who reportedly suffered a nose injury in training. The match and supporting bouts were live-streamed on DAZN.

Ashie, who was fighting above his normal weight class and carried a career-high 146 pounds, was brave but out-gunned. Rocha knocked him down in the third frame with a right hook and hurt him several more times as the fight progressed although Ashie never stopped trying. In round six, an accidental clash of heads left Rocha with a nasty cut on his left eyebrow. He fought with more urgency after this incident and knocked Ashie out cold in the next round. The official time was 2:08 of round seven.

It was the fifth straight win for Rocha who improved his ledger to 22-1 (14 KOs). After the bout, he expressed an interest in fighting Terence Crawford. Ashie fell to 33-6-1 (25).

Other Bouts of Note

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a precocious 20-year-old lightweight, had Albert Mercado on the canvas in the second round but was unable to put him away despite hurting him multiple times and went 10 rounds for the first time in his young career.

Schofield, the 2022 TSS Prospect of the Year, improved to 13-0 (11), winning 100-89 on all three cards. Mercado, a 35-year-old Connecticut-born Puerto Rican, declined to 17-5-1 but retained his distinction of having never stopped.

Super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist for Uzbekistan who lives and trains in Indio, California, overpowered San Diego’s Ulises Sierra who was on the deck twice from body punches before the fight was waived off at the 2:59 mark of round three. It was the fourth straight victory for Melikuziev (11-1, 9 KOs) after suffering a stunning one-punch knockout at the hands of seemingly shopworn Gabriel Rosado with whom he is pursuing a rematch. Sierra was 17-2-2 heading in with eight of his wins coming in Mexico.

In a match framed as a WBO minimumweight title eliminator, Oscar Collazo (6-0, 4 KOs) scored an impressive fifth-round stoppage of Yudel Reyes. Collazo knocked Reyes down twice in the fifth round, the second with a vicious right hand that put Reyes down so hard that the referee didn’t bother to count. The official time was 2:59 of round five.

In theory, Collazo’s next fight will come against the Filipino Melvin Jerusalem who won the title earlier this month with a second-round stoppage of Masataka Taniguchi in Osaka. Reyes, a 26-year-old Mexican making his U.S. debut, declined to 15-2.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Artur Beterbiev TKOs Anthony Yarde in a London Firefight

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The presumption, echoed by ESPN boxing commentator Bernardo Osuna, was that tonight’s bout at Wembley Arena in London between Artur Beterbiev and Anthony Yarde would be explosive and entertaining for as long as it lasted. That proved to be true and when the smoke cleared, Beterbiev, the rugged Montreal-based Russian had retained his three light heavyweight title belts and had added another knockout to his ledger, his nineteenth as a pro in as many opportunities.

Both men landed hard shots during the fight and both were marked up at the finish. Yarde had a cut under his right eye and Beterbiev had a cut on his left eyelid.

A chopping right hand from Beterbiev late in the first minute of the eighth round marked the beginning of the end for Yarde, the muscular 31-year-old Londoner who entered the contest sporting a record of 23-2 with 22 knockouts. The punch sent him reeling backward toward his corner where he landed on his knees. He beat the count, but turned toward his corner rather than referee Steve Gray.

Gray let the bout continue, but Beterbiev pressed his advantage and after a few more unanswered punches Yarde’s trainer Tunde Ajayi stepped up on the ring apron and summoned Gray to stop it. The official time was 2:01 of round eight.

Beterbiev hasn’t lost since losing a decision to amateur nemesis Oleksandr Usyk in the quarter finals of the 2012 London Olympics. At age 38, he shows no signs of slowing down.

In his post-fight interview, the self-effacing Russian said, “I hope some day I will be a good boxer,” and acknowledged that he would welcome a unification fight with fellow Russian Dmitry Bivol, the WBA title-holder.

WBA Title Fight

In a bout that was in theory the co-feature but went off during the earlier portion of the ESPN+ livestream, Artem Dalakian (21-0, 15 KOs) retained his WBA world flyweight title with a unanimous and somewhat controversial 12-round unanimous decision over Costa Rica’s David Jimenez (12-1). The judges had it 116-112 and 115-113 twice.

An Azerbaijan-born Ukrainian, Dalakian was making the sixth defense of the title he won in 2018 with a 12-round decision over Brian Viloria in Los Angeles in his lone previous appearance at a venue in the English-speaking world. His five title defenses were in Kiev. Jimenez was coming off a 12-round majority decision over Ricardo Sandoval in what ranked as one of the bigger upsets of 2021.

A Split for the Itauma Brothers

Promoter Frank Warren’s newest signee, 18-year-old heavyweight Moses Itauma, made a big splash in his pro debut, blasting out Czechoslovakia’s Marcel Bode (2-2) in 23 seconds. Moses and his older brother Karol Itauma are sons of a British citizen of Nigerian ancestry and a Slovakian mother.

In a shocking upset, Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna, a 36-year-old Argentine who had lost six of his previous eight fights, forged a fifth-round stoppage of well-touted Karol Itauma who was 9-0 (7 KOs) as a pro coming in. Itauma ate numerous straight right hands before a straight right hand knocked him down for the count. The official time was 1:04 of round five. Maderna improved to 29-10 (11).

Also

The Frankham cousins, super welterweight Joshua and super featherweight Charles, improved their ledgers to 7-0 with 6-round shutouts over their respective opponents. The cousins are grandsons of John “Gypsy Johnny” Frankham, a former British light heavyweight champion.

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Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury on Feb. 26 in a Potential Pay-Per-View Blockbuster

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It’s now official. The twice-postponed “grudge match” between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury will come to fruition on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An 8-rounder contested at a catch-weight of 185 pounds, the match and several supporting bouts will air in the U.S. on ESPN+ PPV at a cost of $49.99.

The hook for this promotion – a come-hither that will be hammered home incessantly in the coming weeks – is that Jake Paul will finally touch gloves with a legitimate professional boxer. Paul’s previous opponents were a fellow YouTube influencer (AnEsonGib), a retired NBA player (Nate Robinson), and three former MMA champions: Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and Anderson Silva. He fought Woodley twice.

Tommy Fury, the half-brother of reigning WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, made his pro debut in December of 2018 in a four-round bout in his hometown of Manchester. He was two fights into his pro career when he became a contestant on the TV reality show “Love Island.” An enormously popular show in Great Britain, especially among the coveted 18-34 demographic, “Love Island” was in its fifth season.

Fury was paired with supermodel Molly-Mae Hague with whom he finished second. They developed a great chemistry, on and off the set, became engaged, and purportedly welcomed a baby girl this week.

What about Tommy Fury the boxer? How legitimate is he?

Fury’s record currently stands at 8-0 (4 KOs). His first opponent was a professional loser from Latvia whose current ledger reads 10-113-3. His next six opponents were a combined 4-73-2. Finally, in his last fight, which occurred in April of last year, he met an opponent with a good record, Poland’s Daniel Bocianski, who was 10-1. But look closer and one discovers that all but one of Bocianski’s 10 triumphs came against opponents with losing records. The exception was a 6-round decision over a fellow Pole whose record currently stands at 18-16-1 and who has been stopped 13 times.

Fury bloodied Bocianski and won a wide 6-round decision, but his performance was underwhelming. “Fury had the Hollywood teeth, tan, and diamante-colored shorts,” wrote Chasinga Malata of the London Sun, “leaving only his performance without sheen and sparkle.”

There is nothing in Tommy Fury’s background, aside from his biological pedigree, to suggest that he has the tools to become a world-class boxer. If he were a member of the Three Stooges, he would be Shemp.

Jake Paul, by contrast, may actually be legit. Those in the know that have watched him train have come away impressed. It says here that Paul isn’t moving up in class on Feb. 26; it’s the other way around.

In the co-feature, Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KOs) will make the third defense of his WBC world cruiserweight title against Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs). A Congolese-South African, Makabu is the older brother of heavyweight contender Martin Bakole. Jack, four years older than Makabu at age 39, formerly held world titles at 168 and 175 pounds.

Although Badou Jack was born in Sweden and keeps a home in Las Vegas where he has long been affiliated with the Mayweather Boxing Club, he will have the home field advantage in Saudi Arabia where he has cultivated a loyal following. A devout Muslim, Jack will be making his fourth straight start in the Persian Gulf Region. In his last outing, he outpointed Richard “Popeye” Rivera at Jeddah, winning a 10-round split decision.

Badou Jack

Badou Jack

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