Regis Prograis’ main motivation behind entering the World Boxing Super Series was to collect the two 140-pound titles available in the tournament.
He’s now halfway to that goal.
The unbeaten southpaw boxer from New Orleans and super lightweight bracket top seed picked up the first major title of his rising career, scoring a 6th round stoppage over Kiryl Relikh in their WBSS semifinals clash Saturday evening at The Cajundome in Lafayette, La.
A one-sided fight was mercifully halted when Relikh’s corner requested the fight be stopped midway through round six.
“I told y’all beforehand, these boys can’t f*** with me,” Prograis boldly proclaimed after picking up his first major title. “I f***** just dominated the whole time. They can’t mess with me.”
Prograis—through public relations genius Bernie Bahrmasel—has been marketed as the “Modern Day Roberto Duran”, a tribute to one of his all-time favorite fighters, with that level of savagery showing late in the opening round.
A feel-‘em out round quickly turned violent when Relikh left himself open after landing a right hook which apparently injured his hand. Watching the defending titlist turn away in pain, Prograis wisely jumped on his vulnerable foe. A brutal liver shot sent Relikh to the canvas for the bout’s first knockdown.
Action picked up considerably in round two, with traffic largely one way but with both boxers having their say by vastly different means. Frequent left hands from Prograis—the clear crowd favorite fighting just 2 ½ hours from home—sliced apart Relikh, who was forced to contend with blood from a cut along the bridge of his nose.
The one-sided round turned dramatic at the wrong time, with Rellkh landing a left hook shortly after the bell which briefly wobbled Prograis. The incident was met with a mere warning from referee Luis Pabon, but provided enough evidence to convince Relikh’s no-nonsense trainer Melvin ‘Chico’ Rivas to let his hands go without fear of incoming.
“He can’t take a punch! You have to find his chin,” Rivas exclaimed in between rounds, but unfortunately his bravely often far exceeding the willingness of the many fighters with which he’s worked through the years.
Prograis (24-0, 20KOs) didn’t show any ill effects from the incidental foul, sharpshooting his unbeaten foe with a crisp right jab and occasional left hand power shots. Relikh seemed flustered, fighting behind a high but loose guard and his timing well out of sync. Prograis grew more comfortable with each passing round, playing to the crowd while stalking Relikh before peppering him with sharp straight lefts.
Relikh (23-3, 19KOs) was asked prior to the start of round six by his corner whether or not he was able to fight on much longer. He was given another 96 seconds, catching Prograis’ hands throughout the round before Rivas asked referee Luis Pabon to stop the fight.
The official time was 1:36 of round six in a largely one-sided affair.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Prograis insisted after his biggest career win to date. “I’m a different animal. (Relikh) already knew from the get-go. I knew that whoever they put in front of me, they’re going to get the same treatment.”
Relikh concedes the title he won just one year ago, scoring a landslide decision over Rances Barthelemy in their rematch last April. One title defense followed, a narrow victory over former 140-pound titlist Eduard Troyanovsky last October in the WBSS quarterfinals.
The bout officially kicked off season two of the WBSS tournament, with Prograis’ arrival coming three weeks later at home in New Orleans. The charismatic boxer put on a clinic, thoroughly outboxing former lightweight titlist Terry Flanagan over 12 rounds. There were points where it seemed he could’ve scored a stoppage, but deliberately toyed with his wounded prey just to prove a point.
“It was the same thing as the last fight. I worked on my defense,” Prograis noted in his efforts to disprove a suggested flaw in his game. “People have been saying I get hit too much, so guess what? I proved (versus Flanagan) I can go 12 rounds and I barely got hit.
“This fight, I barely got hit at all and I stopped him. What else can you say? Nothing!”
With the win on Saturday, Prograis will now await the winner of the May 18 showdown between undefeated 140-pound titlist Ivan Baranchyk and unbeaten challenger Josh Taylor to determine his foe in the tournament finals.
Given the threat of the tournament not even reaching the semifinals due to several financial and legal issues, all remaining participants are just grateful for any action at all.
For Prograis, all that matters is that his second desired 140-pound title is carried in tow by whomever prevails on May 18.
“You know, it doesn’t matter,” Prograis bluntly stated when asked for an opponent preference. “I honestly want to fight Josh Taylor more because some people say he can beat me, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.”