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Every Joe Gans Lightweight Title Fight – Part 6: Charley Sieger and Gus Gardner

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Where did you get this fellow? – Joe Gans, November 14 1902.

I have embarked upon some difficult projects over the past thirteen years writing about boxing but nothing as challenging as this. Joe Gans was popular in his own time but sourcing information about him is difficult. He was, after all, a sportsman and not a president and he stopped boxing well over a hundred years ago.

Fortunately, Sergei Yurchenko has done a great deal of good work in the area of making understanding Joe Gans less difficult. Sergei isn’t my writing partner in any traditional sense and English is not even his first language, but I am very happy to say that there is no Russian anywhere who knows more about Joe Gans than he. It might be that there is nobody of any nationality than knows more about Joe Gans than he.

If I have questions, he has been able to answer them, and then I have done my best to bring those answers to you. Any failure to do so is mine and not his. So, give his website a click here; this is a site aimed directly at boxing obsessives with an interest in the history, and if you are reading part six of this series, you are that.

So let me take you back once more, this time to Autumn of 1902. Theodore Roosevelt had just become the first American President to ride in a car; Mount Pelée again erupts in Martinique, killing a thousand people; the first ever science-fiction film was released to stunned audiences in Paris, France; and Joe Gans took a month off.

When he returned to the ring it was to defend his title against contender Charley “The Iron Man” Sieger. Prior to October of 1902, Sieger would have been a fighter with no right to occupy a ring holding Joe Gans for any reason other than to provide sparring, but on the third of that month, Sieger beat out a fading George McFadden over twenty rounds and in Baltimore no less, where Gans still made his base. McFadden, perhaps still reeling from the three-round pasting he received at the hands of Gans, started so slowly as to cede the first five rounds and clawing the deficit back was clearly beyond him. Repeatedly slashes to the neck and upper torso left McFadden’s skin red-raw and although Sieger lacked power, he appeared quick-handed and accurate.

More than this he was at that time known for durability and although McFadden made the occasional impression upon him with uppercuts and right hands, he was never turned away.

Sieger stated his intention at the outset to make a match with Joe Gans should he beat McFadden and although Buddy King, a lightweight who was making waves out in Denver seemed to be in the frame, it was soon clear that it would be Sieger. McFadden tried to insert himself into the conversation with talk of a bad training camp and the poor climate disagreeing with him, but his time as a contender was over.

Gans began his training in Baltimore with Herman Miller and Raymond Coates, arriving at the gym in fair shape, impressing when he performed before an audience in the Eureka Athletic Club and finished his training in Leiperville, Pennsylvania where no less a figure than Young Peter Jackson arrived to provide serious opposition in sparring. No detailed account of their spars seems to have survived, such occurrences commonplace to those who witnessed them, such nonchalance almost beyond belief to those with an interest in such things now – suffice to say there was as much skill and guile on display in those spars as would be present in most fight-rings for the first half of the twentieth century. Jackson would meet the immortal Joe Walcott twice after these spars and lost neither contest.

Gans believed he would win, according to The Baltimore Sun, “but as usual, he did not boast.”  Sieger, meanwhile, was training in Baltimore’s Maryland Gym aided by several fighters including featherweight Tommy Daly. “[He] is working hard,” reported The Baltimore American, “as he realizes that this is the chance of his life.”

Sieger has the appearance, now, of an unsatisfactory defence, but this was not so in the moment.  New Yorkers began hunting tickets, some of them through the Broadway Athletic Club, which took notice. A short piece in The Baltimore Morning Herald described Sieger’s status in New York that of a valid contender. He was regarded in New York as “the coming lightweight champion”. New York letters began to arrive in Baltimore seeking odds. Sieger was himself was reportedly confident, although early in fight week he spoke only of “lasting the distance” a target that he perhaps felt might afford him opportunities to score the knockout blow as the fight came down the straight.

This was arguably valid strategy and a notion explored by too few Gans opponents at this time.  A strange tussle at the halfway point of his first fight with Frank Erne had seen Gans quit; he had been stopped very late in a twenty-five-round contest with McFadden; Gans certainly had his successes over the longer distance, but he had two longform draws, too. Extending him may have seemed a reasonable strategic choice in late 1902.

Gans appeared ready when he arrived in Baltimore from his camp in Leiperville on the very day of the contest. Sieger met him at three that afternoon for the weigh-in where they both hit the 133lb mark whereupon Sieger decamped for the Germania Maennerchor Hall where he set out to survive for the distance of twenty rounds with the new championship edition of Joe Gans.

It was a fool’s errand; but such was the bravery and determination with which he set himself forth to achieve the unachievable that he emerged with his reputation enhanced. “In Sieger’s dictionary,” reported The Baltimore American, “there is not written the word quit.” The same paper noted that for Gans, Sieger represented little more than “an animated punching bag.”

Gans did take the first two rounds to feel Sieger out but in the third he let loose with a violent attack and in essence, he never let up. “These blows seemed to take all the steam out of Sieger,” according to The New York Evening World, “for he weakened fast after that and was merely a punching ball for Gans.”

Keep in mind Sieger’s defeat of McFadden, just five weeks before.

“In the fourth round,” continued The American, “Gans made Seiger’s mouth bleed, and the hemorrhage [sic] was profuse for the balance of the fight, giving the scene that lurid glare of blood that adds to the aspect of the terrible.”

After the fourth, the fight took on the character of a mere slaughter as Gans battered Sieger around the ring mercilessly upon learning what would be the key characteristic of the fight: Sieger could not hurt him. He was gamely throwing punches but even the ones that breached the Gans defence did no harm. Gans was able to go about his work with a bloodless cool that is rarely seen in the prize ring, sure in his invincibility, able to bring forward his killing offence earlier than may otherwise have been the case. Keeping track of the knockdowns is not possible as the frequency with which Sieger was dropped confused eyewitnesses. Even Gans was astonished by Sieger’s performance, turning to Sieger’s manager Billy Roche and asking, “where did you get this fellow?”

“Gans sent his opponent to the mat a dozen times, landed over two-score of terrific right-hand blows on the jaw, yet Sieger always came to his feet ready and eager for the fray,” reported The Baltimore Morning Herald. “In fact, Gans became disgusted with himself several times. Once, when a right-hand hook on the jaw failed to send Sieger down, he scrutinized his glove as if to see if something was the matter.”

Gans set out showing a preference for the short left-hook that had got work done for him in so many fights but soon he added a long, lashing right-hand, his usual fondness for bodywork departed. In the tenth, Gans sent Sieger to the canvas three times and in the eleventh, the Kansas City Star counted “fourteen right swings on Sieger’s jaw.” The brutality of the assault almost beggared belief but Sieger, to his enormous credit, managed to mount some offence in the twelfth and thirteenth, for all that he was soundly beaten in both. Gans finally put him out of his misery in the fourteenth.

“His face smeared with blood,” testified The American, “trembling with faintness and yet the very personification of brute courage and pluck” Sieger finally found himself crawling upon his hands and knees, “feebly waving his arms and trying desperately to stagger to his feet to meet that awful mauling that Gans was giving him.”

Sieger’s corner belatedly threw up the sponge, protecting their charge from himself. Gans, as impressed as he had been during his short time as champion, “rushed” to Sieger’s corner and named him the gamest man he had ever met. Storied referee Charley White named Sieger the gamest fighter he had ever seen; a series of men with neither the courage nor the sufferance to draw the best from Gans had been supplanted by a challenger with neither the power nor the skill to compete, but the heart and the jaw and the sheer bloody-mindedness to force Gans to work.

Gans mercilessness impressed, but in truth Sieger’s gameness impressed more and as it was so shall it ever be. More than anything, his astonishing effort was a foil for Joe’s next title defence.

Game, too, was his next non-title opponent, Howard Wilson, who pulled himself repeatedly from the canvas before being rescued by his seconds in the third, just one month later. On New Year’s Eve Gans met Sieger again, over ten rounds and for the most part left him alone until the final third of the fight when he tried once more to put him away and failed, Sieger as determined in December as he had been a few weeks before. Gans had to settle for a draw, as agreed in the event of Sieger reaching the end. He leaves our story now; it is fitting that he does so having heard the final bell he had dreamed of, even if it was not in his one and only title-fight.

The very next day, in an arrangement we can scarcely believe in more modern times, Joe Gans was scheduled for a second fight, this one over the longer distance of twenty rounds against one Gus Gardner. Gardner, you may remember, was guilty of fighting scared in a confusion of a fight for which he weighed in at 138lbs. Fearful, and a failure in that he was blasted out in five, six round wins over the likes of Erne and McFadden helped keep him in position for a title shot against a Gans, who was bound to be at least slightly fatigued after ten rounds of tough sparring the day before. The draw, the dollar was everything in this era. If Gans could spin some quick cash matching a fighter who was chanceless in his ring, he would unashamedly take it, and somewhere there were trainers, managers and seconds who believed Gardner could somehow get the job done.

He could not get the job done.

“Gardner,” reported The New York World, “resorted to almost every foul trick he knew, except biting.” The Philadelphia man fought with no more bravery than he had in 1902, less, if that was possible. Gans, who was aided in his corner by Herford and by old foe Jack McCue, was clinched by Gardner “at every opportunity” and drew repeated warnings from the referee. By the eighth he was throwing himself to the canvas to avoid punishment. In the eleventh, having three times driven his knee into the lightweight champion, Gardner perpetrated upon Gans what can only be described as a rugby tackle, seizing him around the waist and throwing him forcibly to the floor. The thoroughly disgusted referee immediately awarded the fight to Gans.

“Cool and self-contained as an oyster the lightweight champion defended his title with the masterly skill of a champion ring general,” summarised the Baltimore Morning Herald. “There was no round of his battle with Gardner, in which Gans took the lesser honors, although he did not get strongly under way till after the fourth round…during the last four rounds Gardner took the count five times and landed barely a blow.”

Despite this miserable showing, Gardner was actually given an ovation as the tenth round ended and the eleventh began. Gardner was overwhelmingly expected to capitulate before the tenth was over and despite the fact that he tripped, pushed, grabbed and ran from Gans without trying to mount any offence, he was admired for making the eleventh. He was, at least, hissed and booed by the sixteen hundred in attendance as his clear plan to get himself disqualified once the eleventh was sighted was revealed.

Such were the trials and travails of the lightweight champion as 1903 dawned. In November of the previous year, Frank Erne had finally been eliminated by Jimmy Britt and all talk of a third fight between he and Gans was forestalled. Britt, meanwhile, in a strange and perverse twist, named himself the first “White Lightweight Champion.”

This was troublesome for Gans. First, Britt had stated publicly that he would not break the colour line under any circumstances, that he would not find occasion to match a fighter of African descent regardless of which title he might hold. This meant that he had a top contender who was not only actively avoiding him but who was also naming himself “champion.” Gans would have been only too aware that America of the early 1900s might find Britt the more palatable of the two champions, resulting in dollars being siphoned away from Gans and towards Britt as the two staged “defences.”  As modern fans beguiled by as many as six champions in each division, we can sympathise.

In a wider sense though, Gans was on the rise-and-rise. Terry McGovern, with whom Gans had created so much confusion in 1900, was on the slide and for company at the very top of the fistic tree, Gans had only James J Jeffries, the rampant heavyweight champion who was approaching the peak of his powers and had eliminated pound-for-pound Mount Rushmore candidate Bob Fitzsimmons; the wonderful middleweight champion Tommy Ryan, who had suffered but one loss in the past six years, and that by disqualification; and The Barbados Demon Joe Walcott, who had started to lose but only to much larger men.

It was Gans though who stood atop what had been the best division at the end of the nineteenth century. While James Jeffries was every bit as imperious as Gans, he showed but a sliver of the skill the lightweight champion commanded, little of the defensive genius or gliding grace and while Jeffries was a superb general in the sense that he was able to impress himself and his fight upon almost any opponent, he did not have Joe’s brilliance in strategy.

My fondness for Gans may be causing me to call it early and those arguing for Jeffries or Ryan will get no strong opposition from me, but my guess is that in the same way Pernell Whitaker was considered pound-for-pound number one in 1993 and Roy Jones was considered pound-for-pound number one in 1996, Gans should be considered pound-for-pound number one in 1903. His genius in talent and thought gets him over the line.

Soon, welterweight and certain proof of his pound-for-pound credentials would call him, but for the moment Joe Gans remained a lightweight.

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Regis Prograis KOs Jose Zepeda at Dignity Sports Health Park

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Not all big bangers are the same.

Regis Prograis slugged it out with fellow knockout artist Jose “Chon” Zepeda and after 11 rounds of tactical battle ended the WBC super lightweight battle with a flourishing knockout on Saturday.

Prograis (28-1, 24 KOs) becomes the first two-time super lightweight champion from New Orleans after his win over Zepeda (36-3, 27 KOs) at SoCal’s Dignity Health Sports Park. It had been more than three years since he last held a world title.

“This was the hardest fight of my career,” said Prograis after the strategic clash between the super lightweight division’s biggest punchers.

The heavily favored Prograis and Zepeda were cautious under the cold outdoor weather arena. Many a previous world title match ended quickly under similar circumstances and both were wary.

Zepeda was slightly busier and able to connect early with his deceptively fast left cross. Though the first two rounds were not very action-packed, it seemed Zepeda landed more effective blows.

Then Prograis went to work.

“At first, I wanted to come out and box him. Maybe in the third round I caught my rhythm,” said Prograis. “Then he caught on to that.”

Behind his awkward head movements and more agile movements Prograis used jabs and counters to force Zepeda into a more defensive stance. Though neither fighter dominated a round it was the New Orleans native who dictated the pace and action.

Round after round was going into the books favoring Prograis, not until the eighth round did Zepeda make a move into a more aggressive mode and finally out-punched Prograis. But the former world champion adapted again.

Prograis and Zepeda slugged it out in the ninth round. Zepeda connected with a left uppercut but Prograis withstood the blow and continued moving forward. Once again Prograis out-punched Zepeda in a very close round.

Both seemed ready to make the 10th round their own and Zepeda connected with a left cross that landed flush. Prograis barely was moved and then increased his output and the two super lightweights exchanged furiously with the New Orleans fighter seeming to out-punch Zepeda again. It was a telling round.

Prograis had withstood Zepeda’s biggest blows and was ready to unload some of his firepower. He had dominated most of the fight behind his jab and quick combinations. Now he was ready for the big shells.

Both super lightweights opened up in the 11th round with each connecting early. Suddenly an overhand left by Prograis sent Zepeda reeling backward and he did not let up. A furious 13-punch barrage was unloaded and down went Zepeda. Referee Ray Corona did not bother to count and ended the fight at 59 seconds of the 11th round.

“In the 11th round I felt like taking him to deep waters and drown him,” said Prograis.

Once again Prograis holds a super lightweight world title.

“I heard the small talk. I heard the rumors. I want to congratulate Zepeda, that guy was tough, tough, tough. He gave me my hardest fight,” said an ecstatic Prograis. “Listen, I got 29 fights, this was probably my hardest fight.”

Yokasta Valle beats Evelin Bermudez

Seeking big challenges Yokasta Valle (27-2, 9 KOs) rallied after a slow start and out-boxed Argentina’s Evelin Bermudez (17-1-1, 6 KOs) to win the WBO and IBF light flyweight world titles by majority decision after 10 rounds.

After absorbing big right hands from Bermudez during the first two rounds, Valle solved the problem and out-hustled the taller world champion behind quick combinations and making the champion shift her feet. It was a simple but effective plan and led to Valle storming down the stretch with more effective punching.

Bermudez had steamrolled most of her opponents behind a relentless attack that focused mainly on her big right cross. But against Valle that punch was mostly eliminated after the third round.

Valle slipped under Bermudez’s attacks and countered with her combination punching. Occasionally the Costa Rican fighter connected with a big shot that caught the eye of the judges.

After 10 rounds, one judge scored it 95-95, while two others saw Valle the winner by majority decision 99-91, 97-93.

Valle, an IBF and WBO minimumweight world titlist, moved up a division to win her second weight division world title.

Conwell Wins

In a savage battle Ohio’s Charles Conwell (18-0, 13 KOs) bludgeoned his way to victory over Juan Carlos Abreu (25-7-1, 23 KOs) by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a super welterweight contest. It was a skillful display of 1950s-style fighting that saw Conwell showcase his strength and canny punch selection in out-fighting veteran slugger Abreu.

Heavyweights

Former Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Bakhodir Jalolov (12-0, 12 KOs) knocked out Curtis Harper (14-9) in the fourth round with a barrage if blows. Twice he knocked down Harper who had been deducted a point for an intentional head butt.

Vargas Brothers

Both sons of boxing great Fernando Vargas emerged victorious in their bouts. Fernando Vargas Jr. (7-0, 7 KOs) knocked out Alejandro Martinez (3-3-1) in the second round of their super welterweight bout. Amado Vargas (5-0, 2 KOs) won by decision after four rounds versus Osmar Hernandez (1-2) in a featherweight match.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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John Ryder and Fabio Wardley Triumph on Dueling Shows in London

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John Ryder and Fabio Wardley Triumph on Dueling Shows in London

If one were driving from Greenwich township in London to that city’s Wembley sector, or vice versa, one would travel about 18 miles. No doubt many hardcore British fight fans would have gladly made the trip if the starting times of today’s shows had been sufficiently staggered so that one could attend both events. But no, rival promoters Eddie Hearn (Matchroom) and Frank Warren (Queensberry) elected to go head-to-head.

Warren’s Greenwich show at the O2 Arena, which aired in the U.S. on ESPN+, had the main event with the highest stakes and the deepest undercard. Hearn’s show at Wembley, live-streamed on DAZN, had the allurement of heavyweights.

O2 Arena

The WBO interim 168-pound title was at stake plus pole position for a Cinco de Mayo showdown with Canelo Alvarez when Zach Parker squared off with countryman John Ryder. A second-generation boxer who came in undefeated (22-0, 16 KOs), Parker entered the ring an 11/5 favorite.

This was shaping up as a good fight, arguably tilting Ryder’s way, when Parker pulled out after four rounds with a broken right hand. It was a bitter defeat for the Derbyshire man who was making his first start of 2022 after matches with defending WBO title-holder Demetrius Andrade kept falling out.

Although Canelo Alvarez has no fear of Englishmen having defeated Matthew Hatton, Amir Khan, Liam Smith, Rocky Fielding, Callum Smith, and Billy Joe Saunders in world title fights. John Ryder, a 34-year-old southpaw, nicknamed “Gorilla,” may have the tools to make things interesting. Today’s win, albeit somewhat tainted, was his fourth straight after losing a controversial decision to Callum Smith in Smith’s hometown, elevating his record to 32-5 (18).

If Canelo chooses to spurn his mandatory and go in a different direction when he next laces on the gloves, the WBO will anoint John Ryder its full super middleweight champion.

Other O2 Bouts

Highly-touted middleweight Hamzah Sheeraz scored his 11th straight knockout and improved to 17-0 (13) with a fast beatdown of overmatched River Wilson-Bent (13-2-1) who was bruised and battered when the referee interceded in the waning seconds of round two. Sheeraz has been training in the U.S. at Joe Goossen’s Ten Goose Gym in California.

Southpaw Dennis McCann, a 21-year-old Irish Traveler, continued his climb up the super bantamweight ranks with an eighth round stoppage of Scotland’s Joe Ham. McCann (14-0, 8 KOs) was pummeling Ham (17-4) against the ropes when the bout was waived off. Ham hadn’t previously been stopped.

Knockout artist Sam Noakes, a lightweight, employed a vicious body attack to score his 10th stoppage in as many opportunities, halting Calvin McCord (12-1, 2 KOs) in the fourth frame. Noakes showed no after-effects of the broken thumb that had kept him out of the ring since March.

Junior welterweight Pierce O’Leary scored two knockdowns but wasn’t able to polish off Namibian import Emanuel Mungandjela who was still standing after 10 rounds. The judges had it 99-89, 99-90, and 96-92.

It was the first scheduled 10-rounder for O’Leary (11-0, 6 KOs), a Dubliner with a strong amateur pedigree. Mungandjela (16-4-1) was making his U.K. debut.

Wembley Arena

The main event pitted Dillian Whyte against Jermaine Franklin, but most of the pre-fight talk centered around the co-feature, a 12-round contest between Fabio Wardley and Nathan Gorman for the vacant British heavyweight title.

Wardley (14-0 heading in) had stopped his last 13 opponents while answering the bell for only 31 rounds, but the jury was still out on him. He had no amateur experience and was thought to be very much a work in progress. Nathan Gorman, Tyson Fury’s cousin, had come up short in his first crossroads fight, getting stopped by former amateur rival Daniel Dubois, but was considered something more than a gatekeeper.

Wardley rose to the occasion with the biggest win of his career, stopping Gorman (19-2) in the third frame in a fan-friendly fight. Gorman clearly won the first round and busted Wardley’s nose wide open in round two, but the Ipswich man, a protégé of Dillian Whyte, cranked up the juice at the sight of his own blood and scored two knockdowns before the second round was over. Another knockdown in the third prompted Gorman’s corner to toss in the towel.

Wardley

The main event was anticlimactic.

It was thought that Dillian Whyte, who has been matched tough throughout his career, would have little trouble with Saginaw, Michigan’s Jermaine Franklin who had misleading 21-0 record, lacked fight-altering power, had fought only once in the last three years, and came in at a too-heavy 257 pounds. But the “Body Snatcher,” in his first fight with trainer Buddy McGirt, delivered a lackluster performance while walking away with a majority decision (114-114, 116-112, 116-112).

Whyte, 35, improved his ledger to 29-3 (19) in what some are calling a hometown decision. To his credit, he came on strong in the final rounds after being rocked in the ninth. There is talk that he will be granted a rematch with Anthony Joshua who stopped him in the seventh round at this venue in December of 2015.

Other Wembley Bouts of Note

Welterweight Pat McCormack, a silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, was forced to go the distance for the first time in his young pro career, but swept all six rounds on the referee’s card, improving to 3-0 against Argentina’s clumsy, feather-fisted Christian Nicolas Andino (16-6-2). McCormack is trained by Ben Davison.

Derby super welterweight Sandy Ryan improved to 5-1 (2) with a wide decision over Argentine veteran Anahi Ester Sanchez (21-6). The scores were 98-92, 99-91, and 100-92. Ryan, who avenged her lone defeat at the pro level, spent 10 years in the amateurs racking up more than 50 wins.

Photo credits:

Ryder-Parker — Alex Morton / Getty

Wardley-Gorman — Mark Robinson / Matchroom

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Avila Perspective, Chap 213: Regis Prograis vs Jose Zepeda Harks to Pryor-Aguello

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Two of the most avoided super lightweights in the last 40 years, Jose “Chon” Zepeda and Regis Prograis cross paths. One a strong, intense athlete reared in the competitive American amateur boxing world and the other a learn-in-the-ring slugger with heavy fists.

Both are 33-year-old southpaws steeped in dangerous power.

Prograis (27-1, 23 KOs) meets Zepeda (36-2, 27 KOs) on Saturday, Nov. 26, at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. for the vacant WBC super lightweight title. FITE.TV pay-per-view will show the loaded card staged by MarvNation Promotions and Legendz Entertainment.

Not since Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello roamed the super lightweights in the early 1980s have two more dynamic fighters with advanced boxing pedigrees met in the prize ring.

Fans still debate their two fights that saw Pryor win consecutive clashes loaded in controversy regarding a mysterious bottle containing an unknown substance imbibed during the final rounds of their first fight. Pryor would proceed to stop Arguello twice in battles that still create excitement when seen.

Can Prograis and Zepeda deliver with equal zeal?

When Hurricane Katrina flooded Progais’ neighborhood in New Orleans his family was forced to move to Houston. In high school he was an outstanding athlete in football and engaged in the amateur boxing program. Errol Spence Jr. blocked his entry into the US Olympic team.

As a professional Prograis proved too strong for most foes and bludgeoned his way to a world title with dominant wins over Joel Diaz Jr., Terry Flanagan and Kiryl Relikh and won the WBA title. In October 2019, he met IBF titlist Josh Taylor of Scotland and lost the unification bout by majority decision to the Scotsman.

Since that loss few are willing to face Prograis who knocked out three foes in three years.

“When I was the world champion everybody called my name but once I didn’t have the belt it all stopped and I know I’m a dangerous fighter and that’s part of the reason,” said Prograis.

Zepeda took a different path.

The American-born Mexican fighter began performing professionally at the late age of 20 in Mexico, in the border town of Mexicali. His heavy hands immediately ended all four of his first pro fights via knockout.

Slowly Zepeda was matched against different style of fighters in Southern California club shows like Ontario, Commerce, Montebello and Burbank. He was always a deliberate and careful pugilist and never the wild swinging type. But if an opponent got too frisky Zepeda could easily unload the left or right to end the fight quickly. That was never more evident than last year when the braggadocious Josue Vargas attempted to intimidate him with words and shoving in a press conference. The Puerto Rican was bludgeoned in the first round in front of his own fans at Madison Square Garden.

Never flashy but deliberate, Zepeda likes finishing the fight inside the distance.

“I have all the experience I need. Regis Prograis is going to be fighting the best version of Jose Zepeda. I really believe it’s now or never,” Zepeda said.

Prograis respects Zepeda and vice versa. But he remains confident.

“I have more experience and I’ve been at the top already. If you compare strength, power, chin, stamina, speed, defense, I feel like I win every time. Every category, it’s me,” said Prograis. “He’s been hurt, he’s been dropped a bunch of times. I’ve never been hurt and I destroy people.”

Zepeda shrugs at the comments.

“Prograis is going to be very surprised by my power and speed. We’re both going to fight the way we’ve been fighting. He hits hard, I hit hard and both of us are desperate to win which will make for a great fight,” Zepeda says.

Expect one of the best super lightweight fights in the last 40 years when they finally exchange blows.

Women co-main

Argentina’s Evelin Bermudez (17-0-1, 6 KOs) defends the WBO and IBF light flyweight world titles against Costa Rica’s Yokasta Valle (26-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round match. It’s Bermudez’s pressure versus Valle’s speed and agility.

Bermudez, 26, is younger, taller and relentless in her attacks, especially with the right hand. She loves the right and has no left hook. But she does possess a strong left jab to set up the right cross. She has never fought in the USA.

Valle, 30, has plenty of speed and has been working on her power with American-based trainer Gloria Mosquera. This will be a tough test for the Costa Rican who recently signed promotion deals with MarvNation and Golden Boy Promotions. This is her second fight in the USA and toughest foe since losing to Naoko Fujioka in 2017.

It’s a very tough match to predict the winner.

Others on the card include undefeated Ruben Torres, the tall lightweight promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions. He was popular on social media for a recent knockout of a guy who tapped gloves with him and then was knocked out a single second later. Super welterweight Charles Conwell is another budding contender out of Cleveland. He’s extraordinarily strong for the weight class and opened eyes with his knockout of Kazakhstan’s Madiyar Ashkeyev who was undefeated when they met.

Also, two sons of the great Fernando Vargas are planned to fight too. Super welterweight prospect Fernando Vargas Jr. and featherweight Amado Vargas are scheduled to perform.

Doors open at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at AXS.com.

Fights to Watch

Sat. DAZN 2:00 p.m. ET Dillian Whyte (28-3) vs Jermaine Franklin (21-0); Sandy Ryan (4-1) vs Anahi Sanchez (21-5).

Sat. ESPN+ 2:00 p.m. ET (main card) 5:00 p.m. ET (main event) Zach Parker (22-0) vs John Ryder (31-5).

Sat. FITE.TV ppv 9 p.m. ET (main card) 11:15 p.m. ET (main event) Regis Prograis (27-1) vs Jose Zepeda (36-2); Yokasta Valle (26-2) vs Evelin Bermudez (17-0-1); Ruben Torres (19-0) vs Eduardo Estela (13-1); Charles Conwell (17-0) vs Juan Carlos Abreu (25-6-1).

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos

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