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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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Christian Mbilli has the Wow Factor: Dismisses Mark Heffron in 40 Seconds

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Christian Mbilli has the Wow Factor: Dismisses Mark Heffron in 40 Seconds

The Gervais Auto Center in Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada, roughly 100 miles south of Montreal, hosted tonight’s card on ESPN+, a co-promotion of Camille Estephan’s Eye of the Tiger Promotions and Bob Arum’s Top Rank. Arum wasn’t there; he was in Leeds, England, but the outcome would have mitigated his aggravation at seeing his fighter Josh Taylor fall short earlier in the day.

Super middleweight Christian Mbilli, of whom Arum owns a piece, needed only 40 seconds to conquer British import Mark Heffron who, on paper, was a very credible opponent. Mbilli backed Heffron into the ropes and collapsed him with a left hook that landed under his rib cage. Heffron, 30-3-1 heading in with 24 KOs, went down on all fours and was counted out. The contest was over almost before it began.

The Cameroon-born Mbilli, a 2016 Olympian for France who turned pro in Montreal, is ranked #2 by the WBC and WBA; #3 by the IBF and WBO. With the victory, he advanced his record to 27-0 (23 KOs). His next fight will reportedly come in August with rugged but battle-blistered Sergiy Derevyanchenko in the opposite corner. Mbilli has been chasing a fight with Canelo Alvarez, but has scant chance of landing it. At this juncture of his career, the red-headed Mexican undoubtedly wants less daunting assignments.

Co-Feature

Arslanbek Makhmudov, the Russian Lion, rebounded from his poor performance against Agit Kabayel with a second-round stoppage of sacrificial lamb Milan Rovcanin. Makhmudov (19-1, 18 KOs) knocked Rovcanin to the canvas with an overhand right in the opening round. The punch knocked Rovcanin sideways, his head resting on the ring apron. To Rovcanin’s credit, he beat the count and launched a futile offensive after he arose. A similar punch ended the brief bout at the 2:32 mark of the next frame.

Makhmudov is certainly heavy-handed, but he moves at a glacial pace and would be up-against-it against a world-class opponent with faster hands and better footwork. Rovcanin, who had  been feasting on fourth-raters in his native Serbia, declined to 27-4.

Other Bouts of Note

In a bout contested at the catch-weight of 178 pounds, Montreal-based Mehmet Unal, a 31-year-old former Olympian for Turkey, scored the best win of his career with a fourth-round stoppage of 34-year-old Laredo, Texas campaigner Rodolfo Gomez.

Gomez, routinely matched tough and better than his record (14-7-3 heading in), protested loudly when the referee waived it off, but his corner stood poised to throw in the towel. He hadn’t previously been stopped, let alone knocked off his feet. Unal improved to 10-0 (8 KOs).

Super middleweight Mereno Fendero, a 24-year old French Army veteran, improved to 6-0 (4) with a six-round decision over 38-year-old Argentine journeyman Rolando Mansilla (19-15-1). Fendero won every round on all three cards including a 10-8 round on one of the cards although there were no knockdowns. Although badly out-classed, the teak-tough Mansilla, a glutton for punishment, earned his pay.

Local prospect Alexandre Gaumont, a middleweight, improved to 11-0 (7) with an unpopular 8-round split decision over Argentina’s Santiago Fernandez (8-1-1). Two of the judges gave Gaumont six rounds, ridiculed as home town bias, with the other awarding five rounds to the Argentine who received a loud ovation as he left the ring.

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Sweet Revenge for the ‘Cat’: Catterall Outpoints Taylor in a Fan-Friendly Fight

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Former unified junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall renewed acquaintances tonight in a sold-out arena in Leeds, England. Their first bout 27 months ago in Glasgow ended in favor of Taylor, a controversial winner by split decision as most felt that Catterall was robbed. Tonight, the Cat, as he is nicknamed, turned the tables, winning a unanimous decision in a 12-round non-title fight that was more entertaining than their first encounter.

Catterall, who closed a short favorite, came out fast and was plainly ahead at the mid-point of the fight. But Taylor closed the gap and on unofficial scorecards it was an even fight after 10 frames. Then, in the 11th, shortly after the referee halted the action to warn the fighters about something, Catterall turned the tide back in his favor, stunning Taylor with a looping left hand coming out of the break. Seconds later, both fighters went down in a heap in front of a corner post.

Both fighters were marked-up at the finish, more so Taylor who ended the fight with his right eye swollen and nearly closed shut.

A draw would not have been unreasonable, but two of the judges gave Jack Catterall nine rounds (117-111) and the other had it 7-4-1 (116-113).

In his post-fight interview, Eddie Hearn, Catterall’s promoter, conceded that the scores were too wide but opined that the right guy won. Few would disagree, but co-promoter Bob Arum had a different take. “Those scores were a disgrace,” he said, taking the microphone. “I feel sorry for Josh. I thought he won the fight….”

In avenging his lone defeat, Catterall improved to 29-1 (13). It was second straight loss for Taylor (19-2) who had been inactive since losing his unified title to Teofimo Lopez.

A rubber match would be welcome.

Semi Wind-up

In the chief supporting bout, Cheavon Clarke improved to 9-0 (7 KOs) with an eighth-round stoppage of Ellis Zorro. Clarke, who represented both his native Jamaica and England in international amateur competitions, won the BBBoC British cruiserweight title.

This fight didn’t provide a lot of action. The humdrum ended in the waning seconds of round eight when Clarke nailed Zorro with a chopping right hand. He seized the moment, swarming after Zorro, and chopped him down with a series of punches. None appeared to land very cleanly, but Zorro was counted out with a mere second remaining in the round. It was his second straight defeat after opening his career with 17-0. In his previous bout, Zorro was blasted out in the opening round by Jai Opetaia.

Clarke, 33, is eyeing the winner of the forthcoming fight in London between WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe.

Also

Welterweight Paddy Donovan, a Traveler from Limerick, Ireland, advanced to 14-0 (11 KOs) with a ninth-round stoppage of former British lightweight champion Lewis Ritson (25-4).

Donovan, trained by former middleweight titlist Andy Lee, fought off his back foot for the first seven rounds as Ritson forced the pace. He changed tactics in round eight which was a strong round for him and then closed the show in the ninth. A series of punches had Ritson plainly hurt and the referee stepped in after 32 seconds and waved it off. It was Donovan’s fifth straight win inside the distance.

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Okolie Demolishes Rozanski to Jump-Start a Busy Boxing Weekend

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The weekend boxing activity got underway today in Rzesnow. Poland where, to the dismay of the locals, Lukasz Rozanski, was blown away in the opening round by UK invader Lawrence Okolie. Heading in, the Pole was 15-0 with 14 knockouts, was coming off back-to-back first-round stoppages, and had never fought beyond the fourth round. And he was a world champion of sorts, making the first defense of his WBC bridgerweight title.

Okolie (20-1, 15 KOs) knocked him down hard on the seat of his pants with a straight right hand, the first of three knockdowns. The final knockdown was the result of a combination that knocked Rozanski to his knees with his head landing outside the ropes. There were only seconds to go in the round, but when Rozanski arose on unsteady legs, the referee properly waived it off. At age 38, his first career loss may also mark the end of his career.

A 2016 Olympian co-managed by Anthony Joshua, Okolie (pictured) was making his first start with trainer Joe Gallagher after previously working under Shane McGuigan and SugarHill Steward and his first start since losing his WBO cruiserweight title to Chris Billam-Smith.  At six-foot-five and with an 82-inch reach, the 31-year-old Londoner is a very interesting specimen. His stated goal when he turned pro was to unify the cruiserweight division before moving up to heavyweight.

Had Rozanski won, there was talk of him fighting Badou Jack. The guess is this may be Okolie’s first and last fight at bridgerweight (under 225), a division recognized only by the WBC which invented it. (The WBA is poised to follow its lead. The WBA board of directors recently approved the addition of a super cruiserweight weight class.)

Saturday

The action tomorrow in regard to major fights begins at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen where the Fighting Dane, Dina Thorslund (21-0, 9 KOs), defends her WBC/WBO female world bantamweight title against Turkey’s Seren Cetin (11-0, 7 KOs). Thorslund, whose name appears on many pound-for-pound lists, is appearing in her 11th world title fight.

The marquee event takes place in the late afternoon (USA time) in Leeds, England, where Josh Taylor (19-1, 13 KOs) clashes with Jack Catterall (28-1, 13 KOs) in an eagerly-anticipated and twice-delayed rematch. Catterall will be seeking to avenge his lone defeat.

Their first encounter took place in February 2022 on Taylor’s turf in Glasgow, Scotland. Taylor won a split decision. To say that it was controversial would be putting it mildly. One pundit called it the biggest robbery in British boxing history. At stake was Taylor’s unified welterweight title which he would lose in his next outing when he was upset by Teofimo Lopez.

Catterall has fought twice since that night in Glasgow, most recently scoring a 12-round decision over globetrotter Jorge Linares who announced his retirement after the match. This is Taylor’s first ring outing since the Teofimo fight in New York. He and Catterall have engaged in a nasty war of words since their first encounter and the match – televised live exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+ and around the world on DAZN — is an advance sellout. Check local listings for start times.

There’s been steady money on Catterall today and, if the odds hold up, Josh Taylor will assume the role of an underdog for the first time in his career.

Lastly

We’re back to ESPN+ again for a show in Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada, a co-promotion between Eye of the Tiger and Top Rank.

In the featured bout, Christian Mbilli (26-0, 22 KOs) meets England’s Mark Heffron (30-3-1, 24 KOs) in a 10-round super middleweight contest.

The Cameroon-born Mbilli, a 2016 Olympian for France who turned pro in Montreal, is ranked #2 by the WBC and WBA; #3 by the IBF and WBO.

In the co-feature, heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov, the Russian Lion, returns to the ring looking to rebuild a reputation that was badly tarnished last December when he was manhandled by underdog Agit Kabayel in Saudi Arabia. Makhmudov (18-1, 17 KOs) opposes no-hoper Milan Rovcanin (27-3, 18 KOs) who has been feasting on fourth-raters in his native Serbia. The TV portion of this Saturday Night card has a scheduled starting time of 7 pm ET/4 pm PT.

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