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Every Joe Gans Lightweight Title Fight – Part 8: Willie Fitzgerald

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Gans is a wonderful fighter, but his showing in his fights during the last five months indicates that he has gone back to some extent.  – The New York Evening World, January 9th, 1904.

A fighter’s prime is a thing of tentative certainty. Whether or not a fighter remains “prime” is a debate that rages on internet messaging boards, twitter and among gamblers in perpetuity – whether a fighter remains within the range of his very best as a boxer is among the most important factors in determining both the future and the past in all matters fistic.

This is because it is not just a matter of predicting the fight or remaining a gambler in the black, but a matter of proper historical contextualisation. Instinctively, we understand that this matters, this is why you never hear people shouting about the ease with which Larry Holmes defeated Muhammad Ali, or with which Rocky Marciano defeated Joe Louis.

Each fighter is different, and each fighter’s prime is different, which is why deciphering it can be so difficult, but if we take a modern great like Manny Pacquiao, we probably see his very best years as being from 2006 when he legitimately got his weaker hand working, to his desperately close fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in 2008 when his calves started to bother him. Boxing is complex.  It took eleven years for Pacquiao to reach his technical summit and when he did, he had but twenty-seven short months in which to enjoy it before his body began to betray him.

Every fighter is different, because every fighter relies upon technical acumen, physical capability and experience to a different degree. Bernard Hopkins at his best knows angles, distance and timing as well as any fighter of the last fifty years, and so his prime landed late, as he took advantage of experience to season his expertise. Roy Jones, on the other hand, peaked earlier and dipped off more dramatically because the fountain of his greatness was speed. Pacquiao required a glorious blend. What of Joe Gans?

Gans is not unusual in that he became his best self the day he picked up his title. In the past seven instalments, I hope I have managed to trace Gans from incomplete contender to dominant world-champion, a man whose experience bought him generalship to match his physical gifts and technical acumen. For Gans, make no mistake, was as much Bernard Hopkins as Roy Jones and in this, more like Manny Pacquiao in arc than either. The difference: Gans fought more often and over longer distances than any of them. In the first year of his prime, Pacquiao managed twenty-nine rounds, a lot for an elite fighter this century; Gans, despite winning mostly by knockout, fought a hundred in his. The wear and tear on even a genius like Gans was significant.

It is little wonder then that in the winter of 1903, talk began to turn to Joe Gans having “gone back.”  He had by this time been in his prime nearly as many months as Manny Pacquiao would remain in his more than a hundred years later.

So, when he emerged from the breakneck barnburning tour which followed his longest break since he became champion, having suffered indifferent results and even a defeat, questions manifested for the first time since he ended Frank Erne’s championship reign. His next title opponent, in early January 1904, was to be Willie Fitzgerald, an Irishman who had relocated to New York City in pursuit of the riches the new pugilism enjoyed.

Fitzgerald was real. His career had brought him victories over Mike Sullivan, Charley Seiger and Gus Gardner; in April of 1903, he had been matched with the uncomfortably titled “white” lightweight champion and perpetual drawer of the colour-line, Jimmy Britt.

Fitzgerald seemed for a moment on the verge of a genuine upset when he dropped Britt in the final minute of the very first round. Appearing both bigger and stronger, Fitzgerald cut a figure standing over his more prestigious foe; in truth though, Britt was for the most part unharmed. Fitzgerald put a minor hurting on the world’s number one lightweight contender in the twentieth and final round, but in between, Britt was the man in control. He consistently targeted Fitzgerald’s gut and torso with what amounted to lightweight’s finest body attack. Fitzgerald dropped an uncontroversial points loss but Britt was impressed.

“He is a better man than Frank Erne,” he claimed. “He can take a punch and go the pace at a greater speed.”

Now things complicate themselves a little so I’m going to restate the timeline:

In April of 1903, Jimmy Britt defeated Fitzgerald over twenty rounds. Just before this, Gans had fought a title-fight with Steve Crosby, winning in eleven. The rest of 1903 was relatively quiet for Gans and included that three-month layoff before boxing that barnburning tour that included his most indifferent work post his title win. In January of 1904 he was to be matched with Fitzgerald.

However, before his three-month break but after he defeated Crosby, before he dropped points losses to welterweights Jack Blackburn and Sam Langford, Gans met Fitzgerald for a first time.

This is an intriguing move on the part of Joe Gans. As we discussed in Part 6, Britt’s anointing himself the “white lightweight champion” was problematic for Gans. It offered the public a choice in champions, and it was very possible that the public might conclude that Britt was to be preferred.  Further muddying the waters was Britt’s outright refusal to meet the true champion on the grounds of his race. So just four weeks after the Britt fight, Gans met Fitzgerald on a clear mission to do what the white champion had been unable to do: stop him inside the distance.

On May 29th, 1903 on Britt’s turf in San Francisco, Gans did just that, taking Fitzgerald out in ten rounds having failed to make weight for what was billed in some quarters as a title fight. No titles were going to change hands with the champion weighing in at just under 140lbs though, and the first real sign of indiscipline on the part of the champion manifested. Not in the ring though. He took the unsporting advantage and turned it into perhaps the most beautiful knockout of his career.

The San Francisco Call described “A jolty left which travelled but a few inches…Gans landed [the short left] then a right to the jaw with the precision and power of a steam hammer, turning Fitzgerald completely around.”

Fitzgerald then “sank slowly to his knees and then lay prone on the matt” while ten was intoned over his still form.

The press were besides themselves in praise for this performance. Gans was a “wonder” who fought “aggressively throughout” although “all styles of going seemed to suit him.”

Gans had the result he wanted, and it was straight up reported that Fitzgerald had been less impressive against Gans than he had been against Britt. Britt was piqued. Surrounded by pressmen he repeatedly stated that he felt Gans would not be able to land upon him as he had Fitzgerald and, eventually, yes, he would meet the champion but only if Gans would agree to make 133lbs.

Gans then, had succeeded in baiting Britt into a commitment, for all that it called for Gans to make a weight he did not favour. Furthermore, he had proven himself ahead of Britt insofar as the wider lightweight field went; referee Eddie Graney named Gans “in a class of his own.” This opinion was echoed behind this fight.

It is worth noting down Joe’s own opinion on the fight, summarised here from several different accounts:

“There was never a time in the fight I thought I would lose…He can hit hard with either glove and I was there to prevent his glove landing on my jaw…He did not hurt me at any stage of the battle…I did not find him hard to hit.”

This then, was the problem Gans had when it came to his first defence of 1904: he had already proven himself the direct superior to his challenger. Not three years before – months before. It underlined the problem a fighter of Joe’s class was faced with, how to find challenges on a landscape he had scorched free of all resistance. It was little wonder, perhaps, that his interest had begun to wane.

The fight was made at 135lbs at the Light Guard Armory, Detroit, on January 12th, 1904. To the satisfaction of nobody, the fight was to be staged over ten rounds which was all that the law then permitted in these parts.

Gans stalked into Detroit on the 4th; he seemed in no mood, maintaining silence while eager Detroit pressmen peppered him with questions. “He says little,” reported The Detroit Free Press, “leaving his manager to do the talking…in street attire Gans does not look like a lightweight. On close inspection, however, one can note his strong build.” The following day, Gans was in training, sparring a local middleweight at the Media Baths. Fitzgerald, meanwhile, set up at Cameron Cottage, accompanied by the famed Italian Iron Man Joe Grim who appeared to be coaching him as well as feeding him copious servings of spaghetti which he insisted reduced his chances of being knocked out. Harry Tuthill, who trained Young Corbett, arrived a few days later to finish up his training.

It snowed that week, the temperature dropping as far as fourteen degrees below zero; Gans took to the road, putting in five miles every day, not excessive but enough to keep him well in sight of 135lbs. For his part, and despite the preponderance of pasta in his diet, Fitzgerald curtailed his training on the seventh, finding himself below the required weight and a little sore from apparent over-training. Gans trained publicly that same day, impressing onlookers with the quickness of his work. There seemed indecision as to whether his “eastern critics” were off the mark in suggesting his decline was at hand, but it is equally clear that many of the Detroit newspapermen were seeing the champion in the flesh for the first time.

Both training camps proceeded efficiently and both men impressed the locals so the line was unmoved by fight night with Joe Gans a 2-1 favourite. This sent Al Herford charging about town offering to bet five-hundred dollars that Gans would win and five hundred dollars that he would do so within the ten scheduled rounds. It is strange to hear of a fighter’s organisation barrelling around during fight week looking for takers but not only was this normal but it was also freely reported by a cheerful press, whose offices were sometimes even the site of large-stake exchanges. Whether or not Herford found a home for his money is unrecorded, but it is known that if he made his bet on Gans inside the distance, he lost that money.

Gans, who hit his mark at the 6pm weigh in with ease, took control of the fight early in a way that must have seemed familiar to both he and Fitzgerald. His specific method was a short left jab to the face, a punch that must have looked dangerous to Fitzgerald given what happened to him in San Francisco, followed by a right hand to the body. It sounds simple, like something an experienced pugilist like Fitzgerald should have been able to solve, but these two punches worked as counters to almost any shot Fitzgerald could muster. “Confidently the aggressor,” reported The Free Press, “he followed the Brooklyn boy about the ring, the latter showing that he feared Gans in every exchange and frequently covering up and allowing the champion to punch at him at will.”

These words will now be familiar to readers of this series, another Gans opponent, another man passive with fear, another easy evening for the great champion. Surely this suggests to all that Gans remained in his prime? It certainly is possible. After flashing Fitzgerald to the canvas in the first with a left hook, Gans spent most of the first half of the fight in complete control. The fight was slow, but in every exchange Gans had the last word, sometimes doubling up with rights to the body.  Fitzgerald was criticised for underusing his right hand in the early going, but it is a fact that Gans countered this punch mercilessly, dropping him off a right hand in the fourth.

At the bell to end the fifth though, the two were “swinging wild at the gong” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, which had Fitzgerald frantically giving way after sucking up a Gans right-uppercut but continuing to fight even as he broke ground. Fitzgerald was dropped again in the eighth, either by a left-hand to the jaw or bundled over underneath that punch in something more akin to a slip; after eight he had yet to win a round on most ringside cards, but in the ninth, something changed.

The round started as any other, Fitzgerald landing meaningless, light punches, Gans landing hurtful ones, staggering his man with one chopping right, but instead of moving back, Fitzgerald closed and landed either three or four hard left hands to the body and a left hand to the jaw. Gans, caught out by an unexpected charge, shipped these punches and immediately began showing signs of distress.  The bell spared him further punishment.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Gans returned to his corner “vomiting.” This was reported elsewhere, The Washington Times claiming “Gans went to his corner vomiting and to a certain extent in distress.” This then was the greatest crisis Joe’s ring career had suffered since Erne opened the finishing cut upon him in his very first title fight; he toed the line for the tenth with gritted teeth.

Champions are champions and despite the heavy punches he absorbed in the ninth, Gans contested the tenth. My sense though is that Fitzgerald took it away from him at the bell, The Free Press reporting a “straight left to Gans’s face and right to head and left to body and crosses right to jaw” to punctuate the round.

The Chicago Tribune was unimpressed with Gans, noting that “the champion is backing up” and was “in distress at the final gong, and had the contest been fifteen rounds instead of ten, he would have left the ring a beaten man.”

This is debatable, obviously, and based on the punishment Gans had dished out and the closeness of the tenth my suspicion is that he would have re-emerged as the general, but it is not possible to find this type of criticism of Gans in a title fight before the Fitzgerald rematch.

This was inconvenient for the champion. His greatest challenges, and the fights that would come to define him, still lay ahead, including the fight he most wanted. Joe’s next title defence would be against Jimmy Britt.

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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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